Textured breast implants have been linked with anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), which forms in the scar capsule around the implant and normally begins with pain and swelling in the breast.
Women who have the implants and capsules removed can make a full recovery, but if left untreated the disease can spread throughout the body and become life-threatening.
There is growing concern about the effects of the implants, with figures collected by plastic surgeons suggesting there have been at least 615 cases of the disease associated with breast implants, and 16 deaths.
In France, where 85% of the breast implants used in women are textured, the health regulator, ANSM, has recommended surgeons switch to smooth implants while the links are investigated.
ANSM said it would convene a meeting of experts in February to hear from patients, health professionals and other stakeholders, before making a ruling. The situation in France is likely to stir the debate about the implants in other countries.
In the UK, where most of the implants used are textured, there have been 45 confirmed cases of the lymphoma being linked to them, and one fatality. The health regulator estimates the risk at one in 24,000 women with implants.
In the US, 252 cases have been confirmed, but experts believe the true figure to be 800 to 1,000, with many as yet undiagnosed.
Australia’s health watchdog, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, reported 72 cases and has said “expert opinion puts the risk of ALCL at between one in 1,000 and one in 10,000”.
The first report of a link was made in 1997, and the UK’s health regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), put out an alert in 2011 after reports of cases in other countries.
“ALCL is rare, but it is important healthcare professionals and patients who have implants know about it,” the regulator’s most recent update said.
However, several women who have received textured implants since the first alert in 2011 said they were not told about the risk – and an apparent lack of awareness among doctors meant some waited months before getting treatment.
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