Breast augmentation is one of the most popular plastic surgery procedures. Each year, millions of women receive breast implants, which the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) deems as approved medical devices. But, that does not mean breast implants come without any risks. It is up to each patient as to whether they feel the associated risks are worth it to achieve the look they desire.
Choosing a top-rated plastic surgeon that is board-certified mitigates potential risks. However, in July 2019, Allergan, a popular manufacturer of breast implants, issued a voluntary recall of their textured implants and tissue expanders over breast cancer concerns. While Dr. Aviva Preminger no longer offers textured implants by Allergan, she values the health and interests of her patients. So, whether you have had breast implants for years or are considering getting them, find out on today’s blog about the growing threat of breast implant illness and what it may mean for you.
What is breast implant illness?
As of today, breast implant illness is not an actual medical term, but it is certainly gaining a lot of attention lately. Researchers continue studying links between symptoms reported by women with breast implants. However, more cases of cancer related to breast implants are on the rise. Last year, the voluntary recall included textured implants and tissue expanders manufactured by Allergan BIOCELL®. You can view a full list of the recalled implants here.
Initially, patients with these implants were advised that no action was necessary unless they experienced the following symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Memory loss
- Hair loss
- Sleep problems
- Gastrointestinal problems
Collectively, these symptoms are associated with what is known as breast implant illness. At this time, no diagnostic tests exist to screen for breast implant illness. However, hundreds of women report that their symptoms disappeared after having their implants removed.
Do breast implants cause cancer?
Textured implants by Allergan BIOCELL® bear the most significant risks of causing breast cancer, although these occurrences still are rare. This cancer is known as Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), which has claimed the lives of dozens of women, with hundreds more receiving a BIA-ALCL diagnosis. BIA-ALCL is thought to increase the immune system response to inflammation, as it develops scar tissue around the implant’s capsule. If caught early, BIA-ALCL can be treated with chemotherapy and radiation. Understand the signs of BIA-ALCL so that you can speak with your physician as soon as possible.
Symptoms of BIA-ALCL include:
- Rashes on the skin
- Swollen lymph nodes
- A lump or mass in your breast
- Pain or swelling in the breast that returns after post-op recovery
Since BIA-ALCL is rare, many physicians may not consider it a possibility when patients voice their concerns about various symptoms associated with this cancer. However, an MRI or ultrasound can detect a mass or collection of fluid in the breast that could indicate BIA-ALCL. If you experience these symptoms and have breast implants, see your physician right away. If you are left feeling as though you received a misdiagnosis or that your symptoms were overlooked, schedule a consultation with a top-rated plastic surgeon in Manhattan, such as Dr. Preminger. Unfortunately, there are reports around the world of doctors minimizing symptoms or discouraging their patients from implant removal even when the patient experienced signs of breast implant illness. Find a plastic surgeon that you can trust, one that recommends appropriate diagnostics and tests to ensure your health and safety. Dr. Preminger is one of NYC’s most sought-after female plastic surgeons, and she is highly regarded among her colleagues. She is passionate about listening to her patients, ensuring she understands their needs and concerns. Contact Dr. Preminger’s office today to schedule your appointment if you experience symptoms associated with BIA-ALCL or think that you may have breast implant illness.
Questions to Ask Your Physician
If you experience symptoms associated with breast implant illness, discuss these points with your health care provider:
- Ask your surgeon for the manufacturer name, model, and type of implants that you have.
- Ask if the Allergan recall affects you.
- Ask about the signs and symptoms associated with BIA-ALCL. Everyone experiences different symptoms, so establish a baseline and know how to identify any changes in your health.
- Ask if you should have your implants removed and if additional surgeries such as a capsulectomy will be needed.
- If you require surgery, find out about whether your insurance will cover it. Patients diagnosed with BIA-ALCL may receive reimbursement from Allergan to cover their diagnostic and operation costs.
Women face difficult decisions – should I have my implants removed?
Just as choosing to get breast implants was a significant decision, so is deciding whether to remove them or not. Not only do you face another extensive surgery with a lengthy recovery, but there are also costs involved. For now, only women with Allergan’s textured implants or tissue expanders are urged to get their implants removed or replaced. However, if you currently have smooth implants that are not associated with BIA-ALCL, it is entirely up to you whether you want to take precautionary measures by having your breast implants removed.
Allergan’s textured implants are used worldwide, although less common in the United States. However, Allergan has offered to reimburse up to $7,500 in surgical costs for women who have received a BIA-ALCL diagnosis. Also, if you received a late-onset seroma (a large collection of fluid in the breast) diagnosis, Allergan is offering up to $1,000 for testing. Another option that Allergan offers is to cover the costs of replacing textured implants with smooth implants. However, choosing to exchange your implants may or may not have an effect on your risk of developing BIA-ALCL or breast implant illness.
Choosing to get your breast implants removed is about more than money – there also is an emotional component to it as well. You probably got implants because you wanted to feel confident or to regain femininity after a mastectomy. But, deciding whether to have your implants removed is a personal choice and should be discussed with your surgeon. However, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons states,
There is no known procedure that can reduce risk for the development of the disease in the future. Patients have developed BIA-ALCL with a history of a retained scar capsule and a history of only simple implant exchange. However, patients should note that the current risks associated with any surgery are higher than the risk of developing BIA-ALCL.
What should I do if I have textured breast implants?
If you have textured implants from a manufacturer other than Allergan, your specific risks are unknown. However, Allergan textured implants are six times more likely to develop BIA-ALCL compared to similar implants manufactured by other brands. If you experience symptoms related to breast implant illness or BIA-ALCL, speak with your physician immediately, regardless of the type of implants that you have.
I have symptoms of breast implant illness. What are my options?
Currently, there is no screening test or tool used to diagnose BIA-ALCL. However, a routine breast exam, in combination with an MRI or ultrasound, could detect fluid masses around your implant. Also, board-certified plastic surgeons are urged to submit breast implant, capsule, and effusion to pathology for further testing. The testing is called CD30 immunohistochemistry of effusions and scar capsules. If you have symptoms listed above, contact your Manhattan plastic surgeon right away for an evaluation and further testing. If you decide to have your implants removed, ask Dr. Preminger about your options for implant exchange, as well as partial or complete scar capsule removal (capsulectomy).
I’m considering breast implants. Should I be worried now?
You may be wondering, do breast implants cause cancer? Will getting implants increase my risk for breast cancer? These are valid concerns that you should openly discuss with your plastic surgeon. Dr. Preminger takes her patient’s safety seriously. Breast implants are common, and this surgical procedure has been performed for decades. However, just like any surgical procedure or use of a medical device, breast implants come with risks, and so does the surgery itself. It is up to you and your plastic surgeon to decide whether these risks outweigh your desires to improve your body confidence. While BIA-ALCL and breast implant illness are rare, you should not hesitate to discuss these risks with your healthcare provider. A trusted plastic surgeon will address your questions and concerns regarding your decision to get implants or have your implants removed. Keep in mind that as of now, BIA-ALCL and breast cancer have not been scientifically linked to smooth implants, or gummy bear implants. However, all surgical procedures come with risks. Please speak with your surgeon regarding these concerns.
Breast Implant Safety
Dr. Aviva Preminger’s boutique plastic surgery office is located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City. Preminger Plastic Surgery is dedicated to serving all of your aesthetic plastic surgery needs. Dr. Preminger’s goal with all of her patients is to provide you with a truly individualized treatment plan that reflects your personal cosmetic surgery goals. If you are concerned that you may have breast implant illness in Manhattan or would like to speak with a surgeon regarding the removal of Allergan textured implants or tissue expanders in NYC, please contact Preminger Plastic Surgery by calling 212-706-1900.
https://qa-corporate.allergan.com/News/Details/2019/07/Allergan Voluntarily Recalls BIOCELL Textured Breast Implants and Tissue Expanders