The Danger of Textured Implants: Overdue Recall
When it comes to breast implant safety, textured implants are winning the ‘booby prize’ for last place. Women have been reporting symptoms of breast implant illness for years, including chronic fatigue, tinnitus, hardening of the breasts, brain fog and many more ailments, but a particular textured implant presents a very unique risk: cancer of the immune system. Allergan’s BIOCELL textured implants and expanders have been recalled because of their link to anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).
Thanks to this very visible recall, cancer and breast implants are now being mentioned in the same sentence. It stands to reason that because of the proven increased risk that all women with these implants will be advised to remove them – but that is not the case. Though the FDA has ordered a recall, asymptomatic women can continue living life as usual, their experts say. Why tinker with something that isn’t broken? is their loose rationale. Women who have received the textured implants do not need to remove them unless health problems arise.
For many women, mysterious health challenges already point to a need to explant, so it’s not a surprise that some in the breast cancer illness realm think this stance on explant recommendation is faulty. There’s an added level to the concern, as women who opted for the BIOCELL textured implants in the first place may be post-mastectomy patients. Do these women want to chance going through another cancer journey? Is it really wise to wait for something to happen instead of taking proactive measures? Even the expanders that have the same surface as the BIOCELL implants have been recalled. After all, no one is sure how long the device has to be in contact with the body before cancer is present.
Just as breast augmentation is a uniquely personal decision, so too is subsequent explant. A woman must decide for herself if having the implant is worth the risk. By weighing the risks and benefits, it stands to reason that an informed decision can be made. The textured implant recall adds another negative aspect to the existence of breast implants. For some, the mere existence of cancer risk may be enough to warrant implant removal.
The rationale against explant, or the removal of breast implants, is that many thousands of women have them – and some are not sick. The same can be said for women who have silicone, gummy bear or saline implants. There is a specific risk to be found with this type of textured implant, however. According to the FDA, the textured implants are the reason for about 80% of reported cases of implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma. That doesn’t mean that 8 out of 10 women who currently carry these implants as part of the body will be stricken with the disease. Still, with odds such as this, and plenty of anecdotal evidence regarding breast implant illness, removing this device from the body seems a good course of action.
Ask medical researchers to estimate how many patients will be stricken with implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma, and they cannot agree. The projections vary from 1 in every 3,000 to 1 in every 30,000 patients. Obviously, there is not a medical consensus. That leaves it to the patient to do her due diligence and to decide for herself whether explant surgery is necessary. As mentioned before, if a woman has already fought a cancer battle and elected to have Allergan BIOCELL textured implants inserted for reconstruction, she may opt to remove them before trouble begins. Proactive women who have never experienced cancer may decide explant is necessary as well.
Add to the cancer concern the fact that many women keep their breast implants much longer than recommended, and you have a very real possibility of symptoms arising, either from breast implant illness or the textured implant cancer risk. Consider this: breast implants are not designed to ‘live’ within a body indefinitely. They begin to break down. Leaks become more likely. With time, they can slowly deteriorate. The capsule that forms around each implant, regardless of type, may pass that silicone throughout the body.
What happens to a woman’s body when any of the above occurs can be disastrous. Those who have opted for silicone implants may experience strange symptoms as the silicone slowly spreads throughout their system. Right now, women whose saline implants have ruptured may be slowly harboring more and more bacteria at the point of puncture. The body is simply not meant to house sacks of goo or saline – and when it’s released, health outcomes may plummet.
Consider this comparison. Kidney replacements occur every day in the United States, and painstaking care is taken to ensure that each kidney is as good a ‘match’ as possible for the patient receiving it. The same care is not taken for breast implants, regardless of type. No matter what brand implant is inserted, the body is going to recognize it as an invader, form a protective capsule, and work on ‘pretending’ it’s not there.
Even the most well-matched kidneys sometimes fail. After all the care it takes to find a match, it’s worth noting this. It’s also worth noting that bodies react differently to the introduction of a foreign invader (implants). For those who experience symptoms, explant can remove the invader and allow the body to return to its natural state. Upon explant, no longer will it need to defend against an intruder.
Safety Concerns Went Unheeded While Other Countries Took Action
The United States is often seen as being ‘on the front lines’ of industry. Sometimes, however, it takes a while for America to agree on safety concerns. The Allergan BIOCELL implants have been specifically targeted as harmful, yes, yet they were nixed overseas long before the United States deemed them sufficiently dangerous. France was the first to do this, with Canada following soon afterward. Finally, America followed suit. Based on historical trends, our country seems not to be on the cutting edge of breast implant oversight.
This historical evidence means that people who suffer because of implants need to share the story. Only recently did the FDA issue a declaration that breast implant manufacturers should clearly inform patients about the possible dangers of implants. For years, a cadre of women have been lobbying for this to happen. Their doctors assured them that the symptoms they experienced were not valid, but they knew the truth. Further research on breast implant illness needs to be done, they say, before more women opt for breast augmentation and suffer because of it.
Is it alarmist to suggest that every woman remove her breast implants? -Perhaps. Textured implants are different than smooth ones, after all; they adhere to tissue to stay in place, and the Allergan implants have a proven risk. Other augmentation options abound. Using one’s own body fat to sculpt an implant is even possible through fat grafting. By knowing all the options, and by learning what has been deemed dangerous, a woman will be able to make the right medical decision for her.
What makes textured implants so dangerous, anyway?
What adds an element of extra danger to these breast implants is an element that long made them desirable. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, textured implants are particularly good at sticking to scar tissue. This was once viewed as favorable, because these breast implants tended not to migrate. Where they are placed is likely where they stay. This ‘stickiness’ seems to make them exceptionally dangerous, however.
When anaplastic large cell lymphoma happens, it occurs around the breast implant; a cancer of the immune system, it is often curable. However, it carries with it a host of symptoms. If you have implants and are experiencing any of the following, contact your medical professional – yesterday.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons lists symptoms of anaplastic large cell lymphoma as the following:
Excess fluid in the breast area that has built up
Hardening of the breast
Lump(s) in the breast area or armpit
Rash over the breast area
As of the publication date of this blog, anaplastic large cell lymphoma had yet to be linked with smooth breast implants. However, symptoms that point to breast implant illness – whether caused by silicone or saline implants - are widely reported. Textured implants offer the additional risk of being a possible cancer-causing augmentation.
Those who currently have textured implants should read more about the risks and talk with a medical professional if symptoms are present. Keep in mind that many women who do have these implants will not develop this cancer, but the risk is significantly higher.
The other concern for those who have implants is breast implant illness, which has been reported as manifesting itself in a variety of ways. Find a comprehensive symptom list here. For more information about breast implant illness, implant risks, explant and more, visit thehealisreal.org and join a community of women dedicated to educating others about the risks of augmentation.