Breast Implants And Cancer
- A recently released FDA safety communication states that the FDA had received 10 medical device reports (MDRs) about squamous cell carcinoma and 12 reports about various lymphomas related to breast implants.
- Two of our experts says they “personally don’t think there is cause for alarm,” and insist that the preliminary data shared by the FDA doe not definitively link breast cancer to implants. Still, the “the fact that the cancers were found in the implant capsules is certainly concerning and requires further investigation.”
- Our experts say anyone with breast implants should contact their physician if they experience breast swelling, pain, redness, tightening, or a change in the shape of their breasts.
- Being your own advocate can be key to coming to a correct cancer diagnosis and obtaining the best treatment possible while dealing with a diagnosis.
The release states that the FDA had received 10 medical device reports (MDRs) about squamous cell carcinoma and 12 reports about various lymphomas related to breast implants. Medical Device Reporting is one way the FDA scientifically collects, analyzes and interprets data about a marketed device. Squamous cell carcinoma is a cancer that begins in the squamous cells – the thin, flat cells that look like fish scales found in the tissue that forms the surface of the skin, the lining of the hollow organs of the body and the lining of the respiratory and digestive tracts. Lymphoma is the most common type of blood cancer.Read More
The FDA communication also states that there have been reports of those cancers for both textured and smooth breast implants as well as saline and silicone implants. Additionally, some people discovered their cancer after years of having their implants, and some of the reported signs and symptoms prior to diagnosis included swelling, pain, lumps or skin changes.
“This is an emerging issue and our understanding is evolving,” the statement reads. “For this reason, the FDA is asking health care providers and people with breast implants to report cases of SCC, lymphomas, or any other cancers around the breast implant to the FDA.”
So, Are The Breast Implants Linked To Cancer?
So, does this “emerging issue” mean breast implants cause cancer? And what should people know if they have breast implants or are considering getting them? To answers those questions and more, SurvivorNet connected with two experts: Mount Sinai’s Dr. Sarah Cate, the lead physician for the Special Surveillance Breast Program at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, and Dr. Jordan Jacobs, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon.
“There is little detail regarding the severity of the cancers and the types of implants to which they are linked,” the two told SurvivorNet in a joint statement. “The fact that the cancers were found in the implant capsules is certainly concerning and requires further investigation.”
“It is not possible to conclude from this preliminary data that the cancers are definitively linked to breast implants.”
That being said, Dr. Cate and Dr. Jacobs did make a point to mention that the FDA required the placement of black box warnings on breast implant packaging and implemented an implant checklist for patients to review and sign prior to surgery in October 2021.
They also noted that anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, has been “associated with textured implants for several years.”
“We do not use these at Mount Sinai,” the doctors wrote. “This is a separate issue though, and almost all the implicated implants have been taken off the market.”
To put the recently published FDA findings in perspective, Dr. Cate and Dr. Jacobs tried to illustrate “just how small the incidence is of these newly reported cancers.”
“There are approximately 400,000 women who have implants placed per year for either reconstructive or cosmetic purposes,” they told SurvivorNet. “If you consider a 10-year follow-up period, the incidence of these cancers is approximately 0.00075%. In other words, 1 in every 133,000 women.”
What Should People Do Moving Forward?
Still, there are things that people with breast implants and those who are considering them should know.
“Patients need to be informed of the risks and benefits of placing breast implants so they can make educated decisions,” Dr. Cate and Dr. Jacobs wrote. “While I personally don’t think there is cause for alarm, I suspect there will be patients desiring removal of their implants.
“The good news is that there are other reconstructive options for women after mastectomy that don’t require the use implants.”
According to Dr. Cate and Dr. Jacobs, these options involve “the transfer of extra fat (mainly from the lower abdomen or upper thighs) to one or both breasts.”
“Not only does this option avoid implant-associated concerns but offers a more natural appearing and feeling breast with the greatest longevity,” the two wrote. “Not all women are candidates though and they should have a discussion with their plastic surgeon regarding their options. ”
Additionally, the two doctors wanted to remind readers that implants do require monitoring and adverse events should be reported to the FDA.
“Patients who have implants placed for either cosmetic or reconstructive purposes should have yearly follow-up with their surgeons,” Dr. Cate and Dr. Jacobs told SurvivorNet. “And there are recommendations from the FDA for routine (every 2-3 years) MRIs to evaluate the integrity of the implant and the surrounding capsule.”
When Should You Be Concerned About Your Implants?
Moreover, there are signs of cancer that Dr. Cate and Dr. Jacobs want people with breast implants to keep an eye out for. If anyone with implants present the following symptoms, they should contact their physician:
- Breast swelling
- A change in the shape of their breasts
If you do find yourself in a situation where an evaluation of your implants is needed, you will undergo a physical exam and imaging studies “to evaluate the implant shell integrity, determine if there is fluid around the implant and visualize the implant capsule.” Most breast radiologists can perform sampling fluid, as well, so that the fluid can be examined to see if there are any abnormal cells present.
“Surgical management includes removal of the implant and the surrounding capsule, which is sent to pathology to rule out atypical cells and/or cancer,” Dr. Cate and Dr. Jacobs added.
The Importance of Advocating for Yourself
Whether you’ve received breast implants or not, it’s always important to pay attention to the changes happening to your body and insist that medical professionals investigate.
You have every right to insist that your doctors investigate any possible signs of cancer, other avenues for treatment or the potential of a different diagnosis. And if you simply don’t know what’s causing a change to your body, you should still seek professional help. You never know when speaking up about an issue can lead to a very important diagnosis – cancer or otherwise.
“Every appointment you leave as a patient, there should be a plan for what the doc is going to do for you, and if that doesn’t work, what the next plan is,” Dr. Zuri Murrell, director of the Cedars-Sinai Colorectal Cancer Center, told SurvivorNet in a previous interview. “And I think that that’s totally fair. And me as a health professional – that’s what I do for all of my patients.”
In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, April Knowles explained how she became a breast cancer advocate after her doctor dismissed the lump in her breast as a side effect of her menstrual period. Unfortunately, that dismissal was a mistake. Knowles was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at age 39. She said the experience taught her the importance of listening to her body and speaking up when something doesn’t feel right.
“I wanted my doctor to like me,” she said. “I think women, especially young women, are really used to being dismissed by their doctors.”
Figuring out whether or not you actually have cancer based on possible symptoms is critical because early detection may help with treatment and outcomes. Seeking multiple opinions is one way to ensure you’re getting the care and attention you need.
Another thing to remember is that not all doctors are in agreement. Recommendations for further testing or treatment options can vary, and sometimes it’s essential to talk with multiple medical professionals.