The death toll formally attributed to breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma now stands at 36, although it could be higher. Three new fatalities have occurred within the same six months and just weeks before the implants implicated in the deaths were set to be recalled.
The implants in question were made by Allergan prior to its acquisition by AbbVie. The Biocell textured breast implant, like others of a similar design, were created under the assumption that the texture of the implant’s surface would help hold it in place better than a smooth-surfaced implant. The reality was that the texture of the implant created abrasions in the underlying tissues over time which would, in some cases, lead to the development of a rare form of breast cancer.
News of the Biocell recall failed to reach many of those who had been implanted with them. In a recent report, Fortune learned that many women actually learned of the Biocell breast implant recall via social media posts or reports by news agencies and not from the company itself. While tragic, that fact is of special importance because BIA-ALCL has a generally positive prognosis when detected and treated early. Approximately 85% of cases can be treated with surgery alone. A special test for a compound known as CD30 is critical in making a BIA-ALCL diagnosis and diagnoses made without such a test can lead to results that don’t take BIA-ALCL into consideration.
Those who have undergone breast augmentation or reconstructive surgery are encouraged to speak with their medical professionals and discuss the risks of BIA-ALCL regardless of whether their particular procedure used textured implants or those that were smooth surfaced. Patients are also encouraged to bring the CD30 test into the conversation and ask if their provider is familiar with the test and its importance in making a BIA-ALCL diagnosis.