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What Risks Do Breast Implants Pose To Cancer?

breast implants

What Risks Do Breast Implants Pose To Cancer?

Any type of cosmetic surgery comes with potential health risks. However, recent headlines have suggested there’s a link between breast implants and cancer. Those considering augmentation may have understandable reservations. The good news? There’s no definitive link between breast implants and cancer, and cancer rates among those with implants remain low.

However, there is evidence certain types of cancer could be correlated with specific implants. While breast augmentation is still widely considered safe, the facts are worth consideration. 

If you’re wondering whether breast augmentation is right for you, you’ll find a detailed look at the potential risks below.

What is BIA-ALCL?

Many assume breast cancer is associated with implants, but studies indicate neither saline nor silicone implants increase your risk of breast cancer. However, a cancer of the immune system called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) may be linked to breast implants.

BIA-ALCL actually does not occur in the breast tissue. It is a type of lymphoma found in scarring tissue surrounding breast implants.

Symptoms of BIA-ALCL include persistent breast swelling, new or unusual lumps, and pain in the breasts. BIA-ALCL is usually curable with surgery, although radiation and chemotherapy are sometimes necessary.

Do Breast Implants Cause Cancer?

Right now, there’s no clear answer. However, research does indicate overall rates for BIA-ALCL are relatively low overall.

BIA-ALCL is also primarily linked to a specific type of implant that is no longer on the market called BIOCELL. Manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Allergan, this implant may have caused an uptick in BIA-ALCL cases. Luckily, the Allergan voluntarily recalled BIOCELL in mid-2019. Anyone going in for breast augmentation today will not receive these types of implants.

So, do breast implants cause cancer?

While the chance of developing cancer may be slightly higher in those with breast implants, there is no definitive link. Plus, further research is needed to rule out other cancer risk factors as the cause of BIA-ALCL. In the meantime, the FDA regularly recalls potentially dangerous products.

Right now, cancer risks are considered fairly low for those who undergo breast augmentation. In fact, the FDA does not currently recommend breast implant removal for patients without symptoms.

Does the Type of Implant Matter?

Some evidence shows a slight correlation between implants with textured surfaces and higher cancer rates, even while the risk remains low overall.

If you’re concerned about safety, talk to your surgeon. Opting for smooth-surface implants may be a better option if you have other cancer risk factors or feel the very low, but manageable risk will disrupt your peace of mind. For those who feel breast implants are not the right choice for them, fat grafting to the breast may be a better option for augmentation.

How Do I Stay Safe?

Any risk of cancer should be taken seriously, however low. If you’re considering breast augmentation, be proactive about your health. 

It’s vital to get surgical clearance from your regular physician before undergoing breast augmentation. Discussing your medical history and current lifestyle can help you assess your personal cancer risk. If you are at a higher risk, breast augmentation may not be right for you. However, other procedures – such as breast lifts – can enhance your natural breasts without requiring implants.

Always work with a reputable surgeon. Dr. Leif Rogers is an Ivy League-educated, board-certified surgeon and a standing member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. If you’re interested in breast augmentation, get in touch with his team to schedule a consultation.

Watch carefully for symptoms after getting breast implants. This is sound advice for anyone with breasts and not just those who’ve undergone augmentation. Do regular monthly breast checks by using your three middle fingers to gently press down on the entire breast and armpit area. See a doctor immediately if you notice any unusual lumps or swelling.

If you do go through with breast augmentation, regular checkups are important. Any complications, not just cancer, should be treated promptly. Your surgeon should make regular post-op appointments to check irregularities.

Conclusion

The link between breast implants and cancer remains unclear. What we do know is that rates of breast cancer are no higher than among women without implants, and as for the risk of development of ALCL, the most concerning implants have been recalled and regular checkups can help detect disease at its curable stage.

Cosmetic surgery is always a personal choice. If you decide to undergo breast augmentation, the most important thing is to be proactive about your health. Make sure to schedule regular follow-up appointments, check yourself for symptoms, and treat any complications promptly. Think breast augmentation is the right choice for you? Get in touch with us today to start your journey.

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Leif Rogers MD, FACS
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Sign up to hear about the latest techniques and procedures before anyone else!
By submitting this form I agree to receive email communication regarding your products, service and offers that might interest me.
Leif Rogers, MD FACS