New cosmetic procedures may come and go, but there’s one that continues to grow in popularity: breast implants. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, there were over 300,000 breast augmentation surgeries performed last year, a 48 percent increase since 2000. Point being, women are getting their boobs done.
That’s why it was slightly alarming to hear that the FDA recently held hearings to investigate the link between certain types of breast implants and a rare form of cancer known as ALCL (anaplastic large cell carcinoma), a result of demands made by several patient advocacy groups. The end game of these hearings? Not much. While the FDA decided that implant manufacturers need to be clearer about presenting health warnings to patients, they did not ban any particular type of implant.
So, what’s the end game for you if you’re planning on getting implants…or already have them? Should you be concerned? We asked top doctors to weigh in.
Melissa Doft, MD, a plastic surgeon in New York City, says the link between ALCL and implants is real and on the rise, though notes that it is specific to textured implants. “The risk has been connected to the texturing process of some textured implants and brands, but not with all of them. Smooth implants are not associated with the risk,” she explains. The good news there: Smooth implants are what most doctors use for augmentation purposes; textured are more commonly used for breast reconstruction surgery, she adds.
That being said, a frank and candid discussion with your doctor pre-surgery is super important. “There are four decisions you have to make when you’re considering implants: incision location, size, above or below the muscle, and saline or silicone,” says Dr. Doft. “But now I’m also discussing ALCL with all of my patients. It’s something that comes up in every one of my consultations.” The bottom line: Talk about this with your doctor when deciding what kind of implants to go with.
And if you already have textured implants? It’s important to remember that while the correlation with ALCL is real, the risk is still fairly low. “To date there are 450+ cases. The incidence rate isn’t known, but is reported to be from 1 in every 3,000 to 1 in every 30,000 implant cases,” says David Cangello, MD, FAACS, at Cangello Plastic Surgery in New York City. (He also underscores that most of these cases are associated with textured implants.) That being said, it’s important to know the signs of ALCL so that you can be on the lookout for them, he adds. These include symptoms such as pain, lumps, swelling, and fluid collection around the implant.
Above all, whether you are planning on getting your boobs done are already have breast implants, “The most important thing for women to keep in mind is that they should trust their intuition regarding their health,” says Dr. Cangello. “If you notice any of the above signs after you’re fully recovered from breast implant surgery, make an appointment your surgeon to be evaluated.” Go with your gut and listen to your body.