The shocking reports out last month linking breast implants to a rare form of cancer caught many of us by surprise. After all, with nearly 300,000 women undergoing breast augmentation each year, most of us know someone who’s had an implant procedure.
Anytime a risk of cancer is involved, it should get our full attention. But, as we dig deeper into this latest health alert, we find it isn’t necessarily new and may not pose as great a risk as has been portrayed by the headlines. And, those injured may have legal options.
Here are the most important things women need to know now about the cancer risks linked to breast implants.
First, this is not breast cancer. Rather, it is a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma called anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL). While normal non-Hodgkin’s often develops in the armpits, groin or neck, ALCL usually stays around the implant area.
Second, ALCL is a slow growing form of cancer. It can take around 8 to 10 years to develop after implant surgery.
Also, the overall risk is low. Among an estimated 5 to 10 million breast implant patients, the FDA says it has only received 359 reports of ALCL. This equates to as low as a 1 in 30,000 chance. Of course, experts predict the number of actual cases could be higher than reported to the FDA and Australia and New Zealand have put the risk as high as 1 in 1,000. Still, overall occurrence rates are low.
Next, women should know that ALCL is highly treatable according to the World Health Organization if discovered early. This is usually accomplished by removing the affected implant, as well as chemotherapy or radiation in some cases.
However, early detection is key. Without timely treatment, ALCL can spread quickly with fatal results. Women should monitor for symptoms such as chest pain, painful or swollen breasts, breast lumps, fever, abdominal pain or swollen lymph nodes.
What types of implants are affected most? According to the FDA data, the fill solution doesn’t matter as much as the implant texture. Of the reports that signified fill types, 60% of cases were from silicone implants versus 40% from saline-filled implants.
However, when sorted by implant texture, the data showed 88% of reported cases were from textured implants, while only 12% were from smooth implants.
For now, the FDA says implant recipients don’t need to change their medical plans or see their doctor more often, other than regularly monitoring for symptoms at home as listed above.
One major question being raised is: Did implant makers know about these cancer risks for years but put patients at risk by continuing to sell these dangerous products? So far, it seems they did. Questions about ALCL links to implants were raised as early as 1997, but no warnings were given until recently.
For this reason, lawyers say those diagnosed with ALCL may be entitled to significant compensation to help they and their families deal with their condition. They are already investigating cases and anyone affected is urged to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.
Check back with DrugNews for continued updates on ALCL breast implant cancer. Or, to speak directly with a lawyer, call, chat or email us today.
Last summer, the Department of Justice unveiled the details of an ongoing lawsuit and resulting settlement against industrial giant 3M, claiming the company had furnished defective combat earplugs to millions of U.S. troops serving around the world.