Caution is being urged for women who received textured implants while undergoing breast augmentation surgery, as they may be linked to the development of an extraordinarily rare form of breast cancer.
A recent story on Today tells the story of Stacey Boone, a Florida woman who had breast augmentation surgery in 1990. Decades later, after losing over 40 pounds and living with an “egg-sized lump on her collarbone;” symptoms initially dismissed as the flu, Ms. Boone learned that she was actually suffering from breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma, or ALCL for short. ALCL is a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The disease is incredibly rare, and that rarity is what led researchers to the possible link with textured breast implants. Unlike their smoother silicone cousins, textured breast implants are harder and made with rougher surfaces. The devices are designed to stay in place and reduce the risk of complications than can lead to the breast becoming hard and misshapen.
The reason why the implants increase the patient’s risk has researchers looking for answers. Many theories abound; mostly attributing the implant’s rougher surface with increased risks of abrasion which can then lead to the damage eventually becoming malignant.
The numbers related to ALCL are startling, but they also emphasize the rarity of the disease. According to one surgeon who is actively researching the relationship between the implants and ALCL, the risk of eventually developing the disease is 67 times higher for a woman who has received a textured breast implant versus the rest of the population. That only equates to about one in every 30,000.
After undergoing treatment, Boone has been in remission for nearly two years and walks five miles a day. She chose to speak out because of the shock she received at the news that the “flu” she was dealing with was actually stage four breast cancer. “That was the last thing I thought of,” she said during her interview. “Worst case scenario, I thought maybe it was leaking.”
Women who have undergone breast augmentation surgery are urged to remain vigilant regarding their ongoing medical care. Dr. Clemens, the researcher referenced earlier, says that around 80 percent of women with breast implant-associated ALCL will present with a “spontaneous fluid collection” generally indicated by a sudden swelling or enlargement of the breast. 40 percent will feel a mass during an exam. Clemens also references a screen test known as CD30. Without a CD30 test, he warns that it is possible to miss the presence of ALCL.