Nearly each case of a rare and dangerous cancer has been found directly linked to breast implants, and although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first made note of the danger back in 2011, only recently have doctors become more aware of the disease.
Breast implant-associated anaplastic large-cell lymphoma seems to be caused by textured breast implants. Almost 10 million women throughout the world have breast implants, but how many exactly were implanted with the type that poses the greatest risk is unknown. Doctors believe that the textured implants cause the body to become inflamed in the nearby tissue, which can then stimulate cancerous growth.
Surprisingly, the FDA has not issued a recall on any breast implants. Instead, the agency has given all breast implants the same consumer warning – an advisory that urges women to consult with their doctors. So far, 9 women have died as a result of breast implant-associated anaplastic large-cell lymphoma and there have been at least 359 reported cases worldwide so far. If the disease is detected in an early stage there is a fairly high survival rate.
Breast implants have become more and more common, with the amount of women getting them going up by 37% in the last 15 years alone. More and more women report getting breast implants after having mastectomies, where their breasts are removed. According to data, roughly 400,000 women in the U.S. get breast implants annually, and globally almost 1.5 million do.
Data shows that regardless of whether or not a woman gets saline or silicone implants, the attributed risk of developing the cancer remains the same. As of now, researchers find that there is a 1 in 30,000 chance for a woman in the U.S. who has textured breast implants to get the disease.
Breast implant-associated anaplastic large-cell lymphoma has certain symptoms, such as painful swelling, lumps located in the breast or armpit and fluid buildup in the areas surrounding the implant. For many of the women with the disease, once doctors removed the implant and scar tissue around it, the cancer itself was eliminated. However, sometimes radiation and chemotherapy are necessary if the cancer has spread.
As recently as 2015, only about one-third of plastic surgeons were consulting with their patients about the disease. This means that for years, millions of women failed to receive serious health warnings about breast implants before or after receiving them. Many women who had become ill and reported health problems didn’t receive proper medical attention because there was a dangerous lack of knowledge surrounding the disease.
Women are not only fighting for their health, but they battling their health insurance providers as well. One woman with the disease said that while her insurance covered radiation and chemotherapy, it denied coverage for removing the physical implants. According to insurers, many contracts have clauses that prohibit covering “cosmetic” procedures, which often means refusing to pay for removing a cancer-causing implant.
According to the FDA’s page on breast implant-associated anaplastic large-cell lymphoma, many women fell victim to medical misdiagnoses before being accurately diagnosed and treated. Luckily, as a response to a lack of knowledge, doctors have created a laboratory to study prevention and treatment of the disease.
To this day, doctors still do not fully understand what causes the cancer, but because of numerous case studies they know that the culprit is certainly textured breast implants. Some believe that the texture of the implants can be a bacterial breeding ground. A lead research at the cancer laboratory notes that another factor may be that some women are genetically predisposed to lymphoma, and that the implants somehow increase the risk. One particular type of implant, called Allergan, has been found in more cases of the cancer than any other kind. The company released a statement saying they are conducting research and taking “the disease seriously”.
What researchers do know is that women tend to get this type of cancer anywhere from 2 to 28 years after getting textured implants, and today, they are more on the lookout for warning signs than they ever have been before. Luckily, there is continuing research on the disease and doctors are working on developing better methods of early detection, screening, prevention and treatment.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury because of a product, please call the knowledgeable Philadelphia personal injury attorneys at Galfand Berger, LLP. With offices located in Philadelphia, Reading and Bethlehem, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.