Summary: There was a time when silicone breast implants were suspected of causing cancer. The fear was so palpable that the FDA even took silicone implants off the market. Of course, no link was found and now silicone implants are among the safest and most satisfactory medical devices on the market. Now, some research is linking breast augmentation surgery to a type of cancer—but it’s an exceptionally rare complication. Almost all women who have a breast augmentation, in fact, are thrilled with the results.
A Stormy Relationship
Breast implants and breast cancer have a long and storied relationship—though most of it has been conjecture. And most of that conjecture has long been disproved. In fact, modern-day breast silicone implants help women recover from breast cancer through breast reconstruction surgery. But there was a time when silicone breast implants were pulled off the market at the request of the FDA because there were concerns the silicone might be causing breast cancer.
Silicone is Safe
Of course, none of those concerns were ever substantiated by rigorous testing. And later, the FDA lifted the ban on silicone implants. Those implants are now among the most popular on the market, and are nearly universally loved by plastic surgeons because of those they look and feel—and because they are exceptionally safe.
A Rare Case
But there’s some new research that’s a little on the scary side, mostly because it threatens to raise the specter of a connection between breast augmentation and cancer again. To be sure, the research is good. We need to know all we can about this.
It looks like about 71 people who have undergone breast augmentation (out of the 290,000 that the study looked at) developed what’s known as anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL). It’s an exceptionally rare form of breast cancer, and it’s only slightly less rare in women who have undergone breast augmentation surgery.
So, here’s the deal. ALCL doesn’t usually appear near the breast. Most often, it appears in the lymph nodes, liver, skin, or soft tissue. But in those 71 women who have it and have also had breast augmentation, it tends to appear around the scar tissue of the breast operation.
We Need to Know More
There are two things we need to stress. The first is just how rare this is. According to the research, published in Mutation Research, only between 1-6 women in every 3 million who undergo a breast procedure seem to have developed the ALCL. That’s a staggeringly rare relationship. That relationship, whatever it may be, still needs to be investigated, of course, but I don’t know that it’s strong enough at this point to use it to dissuade anyone from the plastic surgery they might want to explore.
It’s also worth noting that this particular type of cancer in women who have had a breast augmentation has a very low mortality rate. The majority of those diagnosed with this particular type of ALCL live for over five years and most respond well to treatment. In fact, in many of these cases, chemotherapy wasn’t even needed—the implant was simply removed and the issue cleared up.
More research needs to be done on this topic, of course. And even though only five (again, out of millions) of people died from this complication, it’s still important to be up front about any potential side effects, no matter how rare. By the same token, it’s also important to point out how beneficial breast augmentation is for those women who feel it necessary to undergo the procedure.
In fact, according to website of the Wisconsin breast procedure experts at Milwaukee Plastic Surgery, breast augmentation can lead to a market improvement in feelings of quality of life, self-confidence, and self-esteem. Many women undergo the procedure to feel good about their bodies, to encourage happiness, and take control over their lives. In other words, most women that undergo breast augmentations tend to feel that the procedure is completely worth it—and note almost nothing but positive impacts in the long term. These positive impacts, while largely emotional, also carry with them positive physical components as well—happiness and self-esteem have been tied to longevity and so on.
In the end, you’ll want to discuss any possible procedure with your plastic surgeon—as your body and daily living habits will determine possible risks more than anything. Most women who undergo the procedure feel great afterwards, and breast augmentation has a 94% “worth it” rating on plastic surgery social media site realself.com. While it’s still important to probe every relationship connected to breast procedures, it’s difficult to deny the happiness and satisfaction that so many people who undergo the procedure feel in the end.