At a recent medical conference a colleague asked me what I thought of breast implants.
The reason for her question it turned out is that she had breast cancer and is thinking about having breast reconstruction.
Should she have a breast implant as part of that?
In the light of recent findings my answer was NO. The reason for being against an implant is that it may lead to getting cancer AGAIN.
The latest research shows years later a woman can develop lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system.
The cancer was only identified in 2010, with the first case reported in Britain in 2012.
Typically, women notice one of their breasts swelling rapidly and painlessly. If the cancer is caught early it can usually be treated with surgery.
The cancer is thought to occur once per 24,000 implants sold in the UK, both in women having implants for cosmetic reasons and reconstructions.
Nigel Mercer, former president of the British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons, said he knew “for certain” that many women were not told of the risk and that facing a second cancer diagnosis could be “devastating”.
He added: “I have seen patients who have not been warned there is a risk of BIA-ALCL (lymphoma) by the clinic or surgeon they have seen.”
As of September there have been 57 reports of the lymphoma in patients with breast implants, 45 confirmed.
A joint statement by several surgeons’ associations said it was “essential all patients who are considering a breast implant for reconstructive or cosmetic purposes are made fully aware of the potential risks by their surgeon”.
Rachel Rawson, clinical nurse specialist at Breast Cancer Care, said: “After a life-changing breast cancer diagnosis, reconstruction can help many women feel more like themselves again, so then being diagnosed with BIA-ALCL is utterly heartbreaking.
“We hear from the very few women blind-sided by this disease that it makes long-term recovery even more difficult, dramatically increasing feelings of anxiety, isolation and abandonment, and there’s often no support because it’s so rare.
“It can reduce body confidence to an all-time low, sometimes taking away the option of having a reconstructed breast again forever.”
Ms Rawson said it should not put women off breast reconstruction, but it’s vital they are warned about the risk.
The bottom line is if you have any questions or have breast implants and notice any changes such as lumps, swellings or distortions in your breasts, neck or armpits, speak to your surgeon or GP as soon as possible.