Breast Cancer is one of the more iconic diseases in the last decade and there is an increasing amount of information about it, with a lot of foundations now established to fund more research. And latest research has shown that a disease that may surge because of breast cancer is anaplastic large-cell lymphoma.
Anaplastic large-cell lymphoma (we’ll just call it lymphoma for now) is a type of cancer that women can develop through breast implants. Women get these implants either as a result of breast removal due to breast cancer or for cosmetic reasons.
The disease can affect anyone who’s had implants for two to up to twenty-eight years and the only way to treat it is by removing the implant and any scar tissue that’s around it. It’s not an everyday occurrence, but more and more cases are appearing.
This rare form of cancer has affected over 10 million women worldwide in the last few years, with some areas of the world seeing a bigger sum than others.
Doctors first discovered the link between cancer and implants in 2011, when they realised that patients who developed lymphoma were usually the ones with the rougher and more textured implants, as opposed to smoother implants which are frequently used.
Even though they’re not quite sure on why the difference in texture would affect the development of lymphoma, doctors theorise that it could be bacteria that are attached to the textured implant; if this is the case, then the bacteria would be able to form a type of coating called a biofilm and attack the immune system. The effects of this biofilm could vary from causing severe inflammation to even developing cancers such as lymphoma.
Researchers argue that it might not be the only cause; more investigations have gone into testing whether or not women’s genetic makeup has some molecule that could reject the implants and in turn generate lymphoma.
Thankfully, the symptoms for lymphoma are easy enough to spot. Like Breast Cancer, symptoms involve swelling and a buildup of fluid. Small bumps will also appear around the breast or on the armpits.
Thankfully, this type of lymphoma can be solved quickly. To test for it, doctors simply have to drain some fluid from the breast and test it for a substance called CD30 which is what causes lymphoma. Not just that, but if spotted early, it is easily treatable, and the patient won’t run any risk of the disease resurging at any point during their life.
Unfortunately, things aren’t quite that simple. The link between implants and lymphoma was only made a few years ago, before that, doctors either had no idea of what was happening or didn’t have any concrete evidence. Because of this, a lot of women were put back into chemotherapy treatment which didn’t help their condition at all.
Even after it became known, many doctors still weren’t aware of the disease or what to do to prevent it; this led women to look for help from each other through social media groups where they could relay their accounts to one another and learn more about their situation.
With time, lymphoma through implants has become better known, but a lot of damage has already been done. Breast implants, regardless of the cause for them, have become one of the more common plastic surgery procedures in the world, so the possibility for people that could develop this type of lymphoma is certainly high.
Not just that, but as of 2015, only 30% of plastic surgeons frequently talked to their patients about cancer, according to Dr Mark W. Clemens II, a plastic surgeon and an expert on the disease at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
With all that said, doctors are still working hard to spread the knowledge about lymphoma, and these women are also doing everything they can to help each other out. It’s just a matter of time before more people learn more about it and help future cases be more prepared. In the meanwhile, we highly recommend women to do regular checks on their breasts and see a doctor once they notice anything unusual.
Photo Credits: Daily Mail, Stefano Marianelli, ShutterStock