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Breast Implants Linked to Rare Cancer?

February 6th, 2011 Miguel A. Delgado Jr, MD

Several articles have been recently published on the possibility of a link between a rare cancer called anaplastic large-cell lymphoma (ALCL)and breast implants. Articles have appeared in Cosmetic Surgery Times, Modern Medicine and Medscape, to name a few.
ALCL is a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a rare cancer of the immune system that can occur anywhere in the body. 1 out of 500,000 women per year are diagnosed with ALCL in the United States. Even more rare is ALCL of the breast, 3 out of 100 million annually for women without breast implants.The FDA says that the risk is so small that they continue to support a “reasonable assurance” that FDA approved implants are safe.

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Inc. (ASAPS), the condition is incredibly rare with only 34 cases worldwide in the past 25 years among an estimated 10 million implanted devices. It is believed that the vast majority of plastic surgeons will never see a single case in a lifetime of practice. To put the odds into perspective, according to the National Weather Service, the chances of being struck by lightning in any given year are 1 in 700,000.
In most cases the cancer was discovered when women were seeking treatment for implant related symptoms such as; pain, swelling, lumps or asymmetry, after healing from breast augmentation.  For women with implants the cancer is usually inside the scar tissue of the capsule and is not considered breast cancer.
Hopefully this information will put San Francisco and Bay Area women’s mind at ease, however anyone with questions or concerns should have a discussion with their plastic surgeon.

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