Connection between breast implants and cancer

The Food and Drug Administration recently provided new information about a possible connection between breast implants and cancer.

The FDA has now identified 359 cases and nine deaths linked to this association.

When Liz Bonis spoke with cancer specialists at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, they indicated the FDA just released an update to the numbers they have been tracking related to breast implants and cancer since 2011, but that there is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to breast augments or reconstruction surgery.

Dr. Michael Guenther, a surgical oncologist with St. Elizabeth, broke down what the numbers mean.

“The bottom line is it was a vary rare event. It happened in perhaps one out of 15,000 women with an augment or a reconstruction. It was more common in women who had a textured implant, than those who had a smooth implant,” Dr. Guenther said. “Nobody needed to have implants removed prolifically. It was done if something happened, so patients … don’t need to do anything else.”

He confirmed that the cancer cases are not related to one company, one style of implant or what’s inside of them.

“It actually was thought to arise from what we call a bio film, which is a small layer of bacteria clinging to the surface of a textured implant. And then in that little micro-environment, perhaps creating the carcinogens that led to a cancer,” explained Dr. Guenther.

It’s up to women to talk to their doctors to find out the benefits and risks, and perhaps what they need to know for the future.

“Just be aware of the way you normally are. If you are consistent with all your imaging and have normal breast tissue, there’s nothing to be afraid of,” Dr. Guenther adds. “One of the questions people ask is ‘what’s the prognosis for this?’ ‘What’s the treatment?’ Interestingly enough, for about nine out of ten women, the treatment was simply to remove the implant and the capsule around it. Overall, the outcome of it was that 90 percent of people were cured from this disease.”

Women should know how to identify early warning signs, such as pain, swelling and lumps after implants.   The FDA reports it will continue to identify new cases and share them in the future.

Sunday, June 4 is National Cancer Survivors Day. Celebrate by encouraging a friend to get a mammogram, going to brunch with a friend or family member who is a cancer survivor or check out more  ideas suggested by the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation.