Breast Implants and Cancer
Can Breast Implants Cause Cancer?
NC Product Liability Attorneys Explain New FDA Breast Cancer Warning
On Tuesday, March 21, 2017, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that breast implants can cause a rare form of cancer that may have resulted in the deaths of at least nine people. This type of cancer, called anaplastic large cell lymphoma or ALCL, affects the immune system. Women who receive breast implants have an increased risk of developing cancerous tumors in the scar tissue surrounding the implant. Thus, the FDA advises that, although the chances of contracting ALCL is still very low, women who have breast implants should be aware of the possible symptoms and seek medical attention if any develop. Additionally, those who do experience adverse side effects due to breast implants may be able to recover compensation through a product liability claim.
If you have received a diagnosis of breast implant-associated ALCL, or believe your implants caused your cancer, then contact the North Carolina product liability attorneys at Riddle & Brantley today. We are currently reviewing cases involving product defects in breast implants and can advise you of your legal options. These claims are relatively new, but in the future, you may be able to join a class action lawsuit or multidistrict litigation. For the latest legal developments or to learn how breast implants cause cancer, contact our lawyers today.
What Kind of Cancer Can Breast Implants Cause?
In the United States, breast implant surgeries are extremely common, with more than 300,000 performed each year. These surgeries regularly use implants filled with either saline or silicone gel. Implants also come in textured and smooth varieties. The new reports include cancer warnings for all varieties of implants: silicone and saline, both textured and smooth. However, preliminary data suggests that textured implants carry a greater cancer risk than smooth types.
Anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) is a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that can appear in lymph nodes, skin, bones, soft tissue, lungs and/or liver. ALCL is rare; only 1 woman in 5,000,000 contracts the disease. However, it is even rarer for ALCL to develop in a woman’s breasts, which affects only 3 women in 100,000,000.
Currently, the FDA is presently investigating more than 350 reports claiming a link between ALCL cancer and both saline and silicone breast implants. The FDA refers to these occurrences as “breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma” (BIA-ALCL). Studies are not yet conclusive on causation. However, given that this cancer is so rare, and even more rarely appears in the breasts, 350 potential cases is a shocking figure that warrants concern.
ALCL is not technically a type of breast cancer, even when it results from breast implants. It typically develops in the scar tissue around the implant but not necessarily in the breast tissue. However, many of the symptoms are similar to breast cancer.
What are the Symptoms of Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma?
Although the chances of developing ALCL are low, if you have breast implants, then you should be aware of the signs and symptoms of this type of cancer. In some cases, these symptoms do not show up for years after the implant procedure. If you experience any of the following symptoms, then seek immediate medical attention:
- Pain near and/or around the implant.
- Persistent swelling or lumps in and/or around the implant.
- Breast asymmetry after the healing process.
In addition, if you are considering breast implants, then you should discuss risks of ALCL with your medical providers. The FDA strongly suggests that patients educate themselves on options prior to selecting any type of implants.
What Should I Do If I Have Breast Implants?
If your breast implants cause cancer, then you may have treatment options. Often, the most effective treatment is the removal of the implant, but radiation and chemotherapy may also be options. However, you should always discuss your health concerns and/or treatment options with a qualified medical professional. At this time, the FDA does not recommend removal of implants from women who experience no symptoms or abnormalities.
The FDA noted in its announcement that women with breast implants appear to have a very low risk of developing cancer. Since as many as 10,000,000 women undergo breast implant surgery every year, 350 reports of contraction is still only a small fraction of patients. The FDA further noted that even in cases where breast implants cause cancer, most patients can be treated successfully.
Nevertheless, in several cases, ALCL cancer spread from the immediate area, causing far more serious consequences, according to reports on NBC news and other media outlets. Additionally, considering how very rare this type of cancer is, absent other factors, and that these reported cases may only be the tip of the iceberg, many women are understandably concerned.
Therefore, the FDA does recommend watchfulness and medical screening for women with breast implants. Even if patients with implants have no reason to suspect that they have any problems with their implants, the FDA is recommending that women receive routine mammography screenings with medical providers who are “specifically trained in performing mammograms on patients with breast implants”.
What Other Side Effects Can Result from Breast Implant Defects?
In its announcement, the agency noted that ALCL is so rare that it is difficult to obtain data from the typical large field studies that would be used in other types of investigations into links to cancers. Still, the World Health Organization has reported receiving hundreds of complaints alleging a link between breast implants and cancer, prompting the FDA announcement.
Furthermore, prior to these new reports, there have been years of reported problems with one or both types of implants. These issues tended to be local in nature. For example, the FDA website lists reported “local” complications, which include:
- Capsular contracture – Hardening of the breast tissue around the implant
- Calcification – Hardening of the implant itself
- Chest wall deformity – Typically of the chest under the implant
- Deflation of the breast implant or rupture – When the fluid inside the implant breaks through the implant’s shell
- Delayed healing of the incision site
- Extrusion – When the skin breaks down and the implant protrudes from the skin
- Breast pain
- Problems with breastfeeding
- Displacement – Often resulting in asymmetry of the breasts
- Hematoma – Bruising or collection of blood near the implant
- Seroma – Collection of fluid around the implant
- Skin rash
- Breast tissue atrophy – Thinning of the skin around the implant
- Necrosis – Death of tissue around the implant
- Wrinkling of skin
- Loss of nipple sensation
- Infection, including Toxic Shock Syndrome
These conditions often result from product defects in the implant or mistakes during the operation. They may necessitate reoperation, or additional surgeries to remove or replace implants. Such problems are widespread; the FDA reported in 2011 that one in five women who had received breast implants for cosmetic purposes and an astonishing one in two women who received implants after a mastectomy experienced problems sufficient to require implant removal.
Can I File a Product Liability Claim for Breast Implant Defects?
Many women are already considering the filing of product liability claims for the harmful consequences of defective devices. Some of these claims have been made against the surgeons or other health providers involved in the implant operation. However, the majority of claims focus on manufacturers, as the side effects appear unrelated to the manner in which the surgery is performed. Allergan & Mentor, a division of Johnson & Johnson, manufactures over 50 percent of the implants used in surgeries across the United States, according to the most recently available data. Per Johnson & Johnson’s earnings reports, sales of the implants account for almost $300,000,000 in earnings each year.
These claims are ongoing, so it is important to consult a lawyer if you experienced any harmful side effects from breast implants. Our product liability attorneys offer free consultations and are happy to speak with you to help determine if you may be entitled to compensation. Presently, no claims have been certified as class action lawsuits or multidistrict litigation. However, it is possible that suits will be filed in the near future in various venues around the nation.
Considering a Product Liability Claim for Defective Breast Implants? Our Lawyers Can Help
At Riddle & Brantley, our experienced product liability lawyers provide compassionate, aggressive representation for all of our clients. Our goal is to seek justice, always. Therefore, if you contracted breast implant-associated lymphoma or experienced any other adverse effects from implants, then contact our law firm today.
We have law offices throughout North Carolina, including in Raleigh, Goldsboro, Jacksonville, and Kinston, for your convenience. Call us toll-free at (800) 525-7111 or contact us online for a free consultation.