Breast Implants and Lymphoma

There have been news articles about the link between breast implants and lymphoma. Does this mean that breast implants cause cancer? If you have breast implants, you may also be wondering whether you should have those implants removed. If you are considering having breast implants, you might wonder whether it’s worth the risk.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first reported the connection between breast implants and lymphoma, a type of cancer affecting the immune system, in 2011.  A new report from the FDA explains what they’ve learned since 2011, and also warns patients that more cases of the implant-related lymphoma are seen in women with textured breast implants.

What is lymphoma?

Lymphoma is not breast cancer. It is a type of cancer that starts in the lymphocytes, which are cells that fight against infection. Lymph cells are found in many parts of the body, from the spleen to the skin, so lymphomas can start almost anywhere in the body.

When people have breast implants, scar tissue develops around the implant. This is called a “tissue capsule” or “scar tissue capsule.” The development of scar tissue is the body’s response to injury or infection.

The lymphomas associated with breast implants start in the tissue capsule, not in the breast itself. Treatment usually involves removing the implant and the tissue capsule.

What should you do if you have breast implants?

Lymphoma due to breast implants is very rare. The FDA reports that recent estimates of the chances of lymphoma in women who have textured breast implants range from one patient in 3,800 to one patient in 30,000 patients. There are a number of reasons that it is so difficult to get a good estimate — including the simple fact that this is a very rare disease.

The disease is so rare that it is NOT recommended that patients have their implants removed if they have no symptoms of lymphoma.

You should continue to care for your breasts and your implants as your doctor directs.

The radiologists at The Breast Center recommend that you contact your physician if you have breast implants and notice new breast or implant-related symptoms including a lump, pain or swelling.

Your doctor may order further evaluation with imaging tests such as mammography, ultrasound and/or MRI.

If you’re thinking about breast implants

You may be considering breast implants. Breast reconstruction after a mastectomy can involve breast implants. Breast implants may also be used to change the size and appearance of breasts.

There are two common types of breast implants: silicone and saline. At this time, the FDA does not see a significant difference between the two when it comes to lymphoma.

However, different kinds of breast implants may have either a smooth surface or a textured surface. Some physicians recommend textured surfaces because they stick to the body and stay in place better. More lymphomas have been found in women who have implants with textured surfaces than smooth surfaces.

Be sure to discuss the risks with your doctor and make sure that you understand the association of lymphoma with breast implants. This is a very rare condition. Nonetheless, it is essential to make an informed decision.