Breast implant cancer risk warning

Tuesday, 11 May, 2021

Breast implant cancer risk warning

Health authorities are encouraging Victorian women who have undergone breast implant or breast reconstructive procedures to watch for early symptoms of breast-implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) — a rare form of cancer targeting the immune system. 16 Victorians have been diagnosed with the condition, connected to surgeries dating back to 2004.

The chance of developing this rare form of cancer is low; depending on the type of implant, the risk ranges from one in 2500, for the most highly textured implants, to one in 83,000 for the less-graded-textured implants. The risk in highly textured implants is around 23 times greater than for smooth implants.

On average, the cancer is diagnosed eight years after surgery, but symptoms can arise anywhere between three and 14 years after surgery.

People who have had surgery in Australia or overseas — for either clinical or cosmetic purposes — should regularly check their breasts for lumps or unexplained swelling on one side. Patients should see their doctor immediately if they notice anything has changed, as the cancer is highly curable if diagnosed and treated early. Removing the implants is not recommended as the risk of undergoing surgery could be higher than the risk of developing the cancer.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has suspended the use of a number of breast implants and tissue expanders, following an investigation into their link with BIA-ALCL.

“While the chance of developing this rare form of cancer is low, it is important Victorians who have undergone breast implant or breast reconstructive surgery monitor for early symptoms,” Minister for Health Martin Foley said.

“Anyone considering breast implants should talk to their surgeon about the associated risks and which implants are considered safer.”

Women’s Health Ambassador Pauline Richards said, “Safer Care Victoria has engaged with GPs and surgeons to ensure they are aware of this rare cancer, as traditional breast cancer screening and tests such as mammograms do not detect it.

“Anyone who is concerned or needs extra information should call the Victorian patient line during business hours Monday to Friday or speak to their GP.”

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