AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Earlier this year, the FDA began re-examining complaints that some breast implants were causing women discomfort.
After the recall of one brand of textured implants in July due to an association with a rare non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Amarillo plastic surgeons are addressing breast implant fears and risk factors.
Jessie Gunn says she has symptoms which she believes are due to her breast implants.
“I had lumps in my breast and in my armpits,” Gunn said. “It was very, very swollen, very painful to the touch and then I noticed that it progressed and I started getting them around the back of my neck.”
Gunn fears she may have a rare form of cancer, breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma, or BIA-ALCL. She said she was encouraged when she saw that Allergan recalled its textured implants in connection with more reported cases of ALCL.
Gunn has plans to remove her implants.
The FDA does not recommend removing the implants if patients are not experiencing symptoms, including swelling, pain, and irritation.
“I’ve never seen ALCL, a documented case and I think most plastic surgeons in the united states would tell you the same thing,” said Mary Ann Piskun, M.D., a board-certified plastic surgeon.
At the time of the recall, the FDA recognized 573 total cases of breast-implant associated ALCL worldwide, 481 of which were due to Allergan implants. 33 women had died.
“So, that’s 1 in 10 plastic surgeons in the U.S. would have seen one case,” Dr. Piskun said. “How can anybody be a specialist in it? We just have to look at the guidelines of how to diagnose and treat and carry that out.”
Plastic surgeons say there is some confusion surrounding ALCL and a different ailment—breast implant illness.
“A lot of those symptoms can overlap autoimmune issues, lupus, fibromyalgia, some of those other types of disease processes,” Patrick Proffer, M.D., a board-certified plastic surgeon, said. “But I don’t doubt that some people may have a reaction to an implant, as complicated as our immune system is and just patients’ overall health. I again haven’t had a patient that I’ve seen or treated for that, but I don’t doubt its existence.”
Dr. Elise May, another board-certified plastic surgeon, said breast implant illness is real, but it is rare and it is more of a diagnosis of exclusion.
“If everything else has come back negative or you’re still having symptoms after being treated for thyroid issues or whatnot, I think it’s important to go meet with your plastic surgeon and any of us in town are more than happy to meet with our patients,” Dr. May said, “and if they want their implants out, we’re more than happy to take them out.”
Because breast implant illness is difficult to diagnose, plastic surgeons are urging women to share concerns with their doctors instead of self-diagnosing.
“There’s large groups of women on the internet who say they have these things, it was caused by the implants, that they’re better once their implants are removed. So far, the studies have not supported that these are illnesses caused by implants. However, there are enough women complaining about it that I think that we have to regard it in that way and if people want their implants out, remove them,” Dr. Piskun added.
So far, only Allergan’s Biocell textured breast implants and tissue expanders have been recalled from U.S. markets.