Breast surgeon Elizabeth Potter refuses to use textured breast implants in her patients and will only use non-textured implants if the patient accepts that the devices may cause her to develop a rare form of cancer. “The power should be in the woman’s hands,” she told CBS News. “Let’s give her the information and let her choose … This implant carries greater risk. Would you like it in your body? It’s that simple.”
Potter instead recommends using a woman’s own belly fat to reconstruct new breasts. She started shying away from implants after a patient, Sandra Rush, who had implants for more than 20 years, developed what she first thought was an infection. It turned out to be breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). The rare form of cancer is more common in textured breast implants but has also been seen with smooth implants.
BIA-ALCL is a type of lymphoma and not a cancer of the breast tissue. It usually develops in the fibrous scar – or capsule – that develops around the implant separating the breast. In February, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), announced it had received more reports of BIA-ALCL since it first updated the public about it in 2011. Through September 2018, the FDA said it had received 457 new cases of BIA-ALCL, including nine patient deaths. The FDA held meetings this week with stakeholders to discuss the issue.
“We have seen something new in breast implant-associated cancer,” Potter said. “And I just want us to pay attention to that.”
In 2017, Potter’s patient, Rush, reported swelling in her left breast. When she heard it was cancer “I was in shock really,” she said. The disease is generally curable after the implants are removed. But in Rush’s case, the disease had spread throughout her body. Rush endured five rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant before she finally went into remission.
Potter says she won’t use implants because they don’t past “the sister test.” In other words, if she wouldn’t give them to her sister, then she shouldn’t give them to her patients.