In 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning letter to doctors and patients regarding breast implants. The FDA has received hundreds of reports of women with breast implants developing a rare kind of cancer. Patients were never warned of the cancer risk and thousands of women have now been exposed to it.
The FDA has received 359 reports of anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in patients with breast implants. Patients with breast implant associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma – BIA-ALCL for short – require implant removal and/or removal of surrounding tissue and may require chemotherapy to treat the cancer. According to the FDA, there have been nine reported deaths from BIA-ALCL so far.
What Is Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and ALCL?
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that starts in the white blood cells, called lymphocytes. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer of the immune system, but can travel anywhere throughout the body via the bloodstream. Anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) is a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that causes a swelling of the breast due to fluid accumulating around the implant.
ALCL can be caused by a variety of factors, but in 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized breast implants could cause ALCL by classifying BIA-ALCL as a specific type of lymphoma.
How Do Breast Implants Cause Cancer?
Most reports of BIA-ALCL are associated with textured breast implants. Textured breast implants are intentionally roughed up in the manufacturing process because the textured surface better allows the body’s own tissue to attach to the implant. Doctors might prefer textured implants over smooth ones because they decrease a patient’s risk of experiencing capsular contracture, which occurs when the tissue or membrane around the implant becomes very tight.
Because breast implants are foreign objects in the body, the immune system will try to protect the body from the foreign object by building up scar tissue around the implant. BIA-ALCL is found in the scar tissue surrounding the breasts, and while doctors are not completely sure why the implant causes cancer, women with textured breast implants have a 67.6 times greater risk of developing ALCL than women who do not have breast implants.
Signs of BIA-ALCL
Doctors catch most cases of BIA-ALCL after patients report experiencing pain, swelling, lumps, or asymmetry in their breasts. However, BIA-ALCL can also cause symptoms including:
- Weight loss
- Back pain
- Loss of appetite
- Night sweats
What To Do If You Suspect You Have BIA-ALCL
Women with breast implants experiencing pain, lumps, or any other symptoms of BIA-ALCL must see a doctor as soon as possible. The earlier ALCL is caught, the easier it will be to treat. A doctor will be able to evaluate your condition and determine the best course of action to treat the cancer.
Women with BIA-ALCL should also immediately contact an attorney. Breast implant manufacturers do everything they can to avoid responsibility for producing products that can cause cancer, but an experienced medical device lawyer will be able pursue compensation on your behalf.
Blizzard & Nabers LLP: Breast Implant Cancer Lawyers
If you received breast implants and then suffered from anaplastic large cell lymphoma, the experienced breast implant cancer attorneys at Blizzard & Nabers LLP can help. Call us today to schedule a free consultation to review your case. We can help you understand your legal options and hold the manufacturers responsible.