At least 61 women in the UK have been diagnosed with cancer linked to breast implants, it has emerged.
Augmentation with textured implants may cause breast implant associated-anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), with smooth alternatives not thought to have the same effect.
Textured implants are thought to trigger BIA-ALCL due to the way their ridged surface disturbs living cells or as a result of the chemicals they are coated in.
More than 40 of the women are fighting for justice, bringing legal action against the implants’ manufacturers, as well as the doctors and clinics behind their surgery, The Guardian reported.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is “aware of 573 unique and pathologically confirmed BIA-ALCL cases worldwide related to breast implants”, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
It also knows of 33 related-deaths.
Leading manufacturer Allergan garnered media attention when it withdrew its textured implants from the global market last year.
This occurred after its European CE marking expired.
US authorities asked the pharma firm to recall its textured implants in July last year.
France and Australia have since banned all textured implants, while non-Allergan brands are still available in the UK.
Some prefer these over smooth versions due to their lower risk of slippage and scar tissue. Nonetheless, textured implants reportedly make up just 5% of the US market. UK statistics are unknown.
FDA figures suggest more than 80% of BIA-ALCL cases worldwide can be linked to Allergan implants, Associated Press reported.
The issue came to light in 2011 when Professor Fabio di Pompeo Santanelli - chair of plastic surgery at the University Sapienza of Rome - revealed 287 breast-implant patients had been diagnosed with ALCL in Europe at the time, as well as there being 11 deaths.
One who knows the dangers all too well is Carla Wilson, 37, who had her chest enhanced in 2012 using a Nagor textured implant. This prothesis is still on the market.
After reportedly receiving no cancer warning, she noticed swelling in her right breast in December 2016.
Feeling dismissed by her GP and staff at Nagor, she went back to the clinic where she originally went under the knife.
The severe swelling prompted doctors to drain the fluid and replace the implants, costing Ms Wilson thousands of pounds.
Blood tests later revealed she had ALCL, forcing her to have her implants and scar tissue removed, with no hope of reconstruction.
After entering a deep depression, the disease came back a year later, with Ms Wilson going under the knife for a fourth time.
Now in remission, she still endures the effects of the ordeal.
“This is something I’m going to have to live with for the rest of my life,” Ms Wilson said.
What is BIA-ALCL?
BIA-ALCL is a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and is therefore a cancer of the immune system, not the breast.
Most tumours arise near the scar tissue and fluid of the implant. In rare cases, they can spread.
The disease can appear up to 14 years after a woman goes under the knife.
BIA-ALCL is typically treated by removing the implant and “capsule” of scar tissue that surrounds it.
The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which regulates medical devices in the UK, believes one in every 24,000 implants sold - textured or otherwise - causes BIA-ALCL.
“People with breast implants do not need to have them removed in the absence of any symptoms from this rare form of cancer”, it states.
Removing implants unnecessarily also puts women at risk of surgical complications, the BBC reported.
The MHRA spokesperson added ALCL is “rare”, however, Sarah Moore - a solicitor at Leigh Day law firm - believes cases are likely under-diagnosed.
She expects to see a spike in incidences as more women become aware of the disease and push for answers.
Ms Moore describes the MHRA’s “‘keep calm and carry on’ position” as “deeply concerning”.
She claims none of her clients were warned about the cancer risk ahead of surgery, even those who went under the knife after the World Health Organization recognised the issue in 2016.
The solicitor wants to see all textured implants banned in the UK, as well as better regulations around cosmetic procedures to target “cowboy” surgeons.