HEALTH & FITNESS

Breast Implants Cancer

Here’s what you need to know.

By Macaela Mackenzie
March 22, 2017

Scary news for women who’ve undergone breast augmentation surgery (or are even considering it): Certain types of breast implants have been linked to a rare type of cancer that’s already caused nine deaths, according to a report from the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA first identified the potential link back in 2011—and as of February 1, 2017, they’ve received over 300 reports of certain types of implants potentially leading to cancer. The craziest part: The implants aren’t even linked to breast cancer, but rather a rare form of cancer that starts in the immune system. It’s called anaplastic large-cell lymphoma, and is seen in scar tissue that sometimes forms around an implant. Luckily, most cases can be treated by simply removing the implant, though some patients do require chemotherapy and radiation, according to the FDA. 

Learn more fascinating facts about the female anatomy:

According to the FDA report, textured implants (which have a pebbly surface) are more likely to cause this issue. Smooth implants only accounted for about 10 percent of the cases reported. So far, scientists haven’t found a link between the lymphoma and the material used to make the implant—saline and silicone implants appear to be equally affected.

According to Daniel Maman, a board-certified plastic surgeon specializing in implants in New York City, these findings aren’t quite cause to panic.

“The bottom line is that this is exceedingly rare,” he says. Last year alone, almost 400,000 women got implants for either cosmetic or reconstructive purposes, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The number of cases reporting the cancerous link is a fraction of a percent. “It’s not as scary as it sounds,” says Maman. “Your likelihood of getting an infection from a breast implant, which is also exceedingly rare, is much greater. What I would say to women interested in breast augmentation is not to worry about this too much.”

Still freaked out? According to the FDA, symptoms of the lymphoma include pain, swelling, and fluid build-up (which could all also indicate other problems), so if you have implants and notice anything unusual going on, talk to your doctor to see what the deal is.

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