Breast implants linked to cancer

Five new cases have been confirmed in Australia in the past four months, bringing the total to 51 – including three deaths

The TGA has confirmed more cases of breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) since its last statement in December 2016.

At that time, 46 cases of breast implant-associated ALCL had been confirmed in Australia in the past decade, including three that resulted in death.

Now the total number has been upped to 51 cases, as the TGA works with research groups and manufacturers to evaluate the risks of different types of implants.

It has also been made aware of a further number of unconfirmed cases, which are currently being investigated.

“Breast implant-associated ALCL is a rare type of lymphoma that develops near breast implants,” explains the TGA.

It usually involves swelling of the breast (typically 3-14 years post-surgery), and less commonly can take the form of a lump in the breast or a lump in the armpit.

While the cancer can occur with both saline and silicone gel-filled implants, to date all Australian cases have occurred in women who had textured or polyurethane implants, while none have been reported in women who have had smooth implants.

“Based on the currently available data, it is uncertain whether textured and polyurethane implants carry different risks,” says the TGA.

“The currently available data suggest that the risk might be reduced by using smooth implants.”

While most cases are cured by removal of the implant and the capsule surrounding the implant, a small number are more aggressive, says the TGA.

According to current expert opinion, the risk of ALCL is between 1-in-1000 and 1-in-10,000.

The median time of occurrence is at eight years post-surgery, but it has been known to occur as soon as one year after the operation and as late as 37 years after the operation.

Women with breast implants who notice an enlargement or swelling of one or both breasts, or a lump, are recommended to seek medical advice as soon as possible.

However experts are not recommending removal of the breast implants for women who are asymptomatic.

“Regular screening is not recommended at this time,” says the TGA, which advises concerned women to discuss options with their doctor.

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