Cancer Survivors Warn Against Textured Breast Implants

Published on July 29, 2019 by Sandy Liebhard

Women around the country are warning others to avoid textured breast implants, amid growing evidence linking the devices to anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL).

Breast Implant ALCL: A Man-Made Cancer

“I always say I lost my chest, but I haven’t lost my voice,” Raylene Hollrah said during a recent interview with the Today show.

A breast cancer survivor, the 46-year-old mother of two from Missouri, had no qualms when she received textured implants 13 years ago. After all, the devices had been approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and were the newest on the market.

But just seven years later, Hollrah’s right breast had filled with fluid and swelled to twice its normal side. Eventually, she was diagnosed with ALCL, a rare form of cancer reported in hundreds of women with textured breast implants.

Hollrah was forced to have the devices removed and endure another five months of cancer treatments.

“I Wouldn’t Wish it On Anybody”

Tara Armstrong didn’t have breast cancer, but a family history of the disease convinced her to undergo a preventative mastectomy six years ago. The Iowa resident opted for Allergan’s Biocell textured implants after suffering a rash and other painful complications from smooth-surfaced devices.

“I swapped out my second set of smooth implants for the textured ones, in hopes that it would mitigate the issues of the shifting and the constant pain I was having,” Armstrong told News7 in Iowa City. “My rash got significantly worse after I got those in.”

Over the next two years, she became increasingly fatigued, lost range of motion in her arms, and developed large amount of fluid behind the implants. Armstrong began to suspect ALCL in March, after attending an FDA advisory panel meeting on breast implant safety.

Although she’s since had her textured breast implants removed, much of the damage Armstrong suffered is irreversible.

“It has derailed my life for the last 6 years and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.”

Allergan Breast Implant Recall

Roughly 400,000 women in the United States undergo breast augmentation or reconstructive surgery every year, including an estimated 1 in 10 who receive textured devices. Dr. Elisabeth Potter, a plastic surgeon specializing in breast reconstruction in Austin, Texas, believes their suede-like surface promotes the development of ALCL in some women.

“The textured surface is almost like a tiny Velcro. It grows into the woman’s body,” she told Today. “I believe that that’s the source of the breast implant-associated lymphoma because there’s an interaction between the woman’s body and the implant.”

Last week, the FDA warned that 573 women had developed breast implant-associated ALCL, including 31 who died as a result of the rare cancer. The agency also announced a recall for Allergan’s Biocell textured breast implants, which were involved in 80% of cases and at least 12 of the fatalities.

Is it Time to Ban Textured Breast Implants?

However, textured devices manufactured by Mentor and Sientra remain available in the United States. The FDA has no plans to recall those products, and will instead continue to track cases of breast implant cancer.

But that’s not good enough for Hollrah.

“Everybody’s for a cure for cancer, we can cure this cancer,” she said. “They need to be removed from the market.”

Many others agree, including Dr. Potter.

“I think that the implants shouldn’t be on the market unless the FDA can say to women, ‘We know that there’s no increased risk of cancer with this implant.”’

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