Can Breast Implants Cause Breast Cancer?

Breast implants don’t cause breast cancer. They don’t raise your chances of breast cancer, either. But research does show that women with breast implants have a higher chance of anaplastic large-cell lymphoma (ALCL).

ALCL is a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. That’s a cancer that starts in your lymphatic system (the system that helps your body fight infection and disease) and gets stronger in your blood cells.

If you have breast implants or have been thinking about getting them, there are some things you should know.

Why Are Implants Linked to Cancer?

Experts aren’t entirely sure why breast implants make you more likely to get ALCL. What they do know is that 93% to 96% of the women who get ALCL have textured implants. That means their casing is bumpy instead of smooth.

Like smooth implants, textured implants are used for cosmetic and reconstructive breast surgery. Textured implants are less likely to move or cause your skin to ripple. But experts think their textured surface may trigger some women’s immune systems to respond in a way that leads to cancer.

Who’s at Risk?

ALCL is a rare form of cancer. Even if you have implants, your chance of getting ALCL is very low. Experts estimate that 1 out of every 50,000 women with implants will get the disease.

Women who used textured tissue expanders (which are sometimes used during reconstructive surgery following a mastectomy) also have higher odds of ALCL. Whether your implants have silicone or saline solution doesn’t seem to matter.

What Should You Do If You Have Implants?

Talk to your doctor. Most experts don’t recommend removing textured implants just because of their link to ALCL. But if you do have textured implants and you’re concerned, talk with your doctor.

It’s important to watch for the signs of ALCL. It can show up anywhere in your body. But most women with breast implants get it near scar tissue where their implants are.

Check your breasts regularly for:

  • New swelling
  • Lumps or other changes in the shape of your breast
  • Pain in or near your breast that’s regular or constant
  • A skin rash near your breast
  • Hardening in your breast or new scar tissue

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Also look for:

These can be signs that you have ALCL. But they can also be signs of other things, like a ruptured implant. That’s why it’s important to see your doctor right away if you notice changes in your breasts.

ALCL is usually curable, especially when it’s found early. To find out if you have ALCL, a doctor will do a needle biopsy and an imaging test, such as an ultrasound or mammogram. Early treatment usually involves removing the implant and any tissue that has cancer.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on October 20, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: “Is There Any Connection Between Breast Implants and Cancer? And If So, How Serious is the Risk?” “Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.”

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center: “Women: Breast implants and Cancer Risk,” “Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma.”

Yale Medicine: “Do Breast Implants Raise Your Risk of Getting a Rare Cancer?”

FDA: “Questions and Answers about Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).”

Dana Farber Cancer Institute: “Fact Check: Can Breast Implants Cause Cancer?”

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