Gummy Bear Breast Implants
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Do Implants Cause Cancer?

Breast implants have been back in the news again. There have been reports of implants causing cancer. Let's clear up some of the confusion that this sensationalism may have caused. In an exceedingly small number of patients who have a certain type of breast implant, cancer has been diagnosed. This relates to a very specific situation. The textured shell of the implant, not its contents, has been found in just over 400 patients worldwide to have caused a lymphoma type cancer. Since it was first reported 20 years ago, this type of cancer has globally claimed 16 lives. It is thought that there is longterm inflammation caused possibly by bacteria that leads to a build up of lymphocytes, the body's bacteria fighting cells, and ultimately to transformation to lymphoma, cancer of these cells. This process takes on average of 8 or more years to occur and usually presents as asymptomatic fluid swelling around the implant or as a breast lump. Diagnosis can be performed by a lab test from a sample of either. Diagnosed early, this type of cancer is easily treated with removal of the fibrous capsule around the implant and the implant itself. Smooth implants, the shell of which does not cause this disease, can be used to replace the offending implants. If the disease is more advanced with spread to adjacent tissues or lymph nodes, then more treatment with chemotherapy or radiation may be required.

Risk factors are being determined but it seems to be mostly related to the textured surface of the implant and not whether it is saline or silicone or if it is for cosmetic or reconstructive purposes. There is no screening lab test. For those patients who have textured implants there is no recommendation currently to have anything done if there are no issues with the implants. Asymptomatic women without breast changes do not need anything more than routine self exams, physician exams, and mammograms. These recommendations should be done by all women whether they have implants or not. So, for most women with breast implants check your implant card or visit with your plastic surgeon to know what kind of implant shell you have. Take a deep breath of relief as most likely this disease will not affect you. Stay informed and continue to monitor the health your implants.

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