FDA: Rare breast cancer in women with implants

In this Dec. 11, 2006 file photo, a silicone gel breast implant is shown at Mentor Corp., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, in Irving, Texas. (AP Photo/Donna McWilliam, file)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Food and Drug Administration is tracking a rare but deadly cancer that seems to be affecting women with breast implants.

The first cases were reported in 2011, but in February 2017 the FDA reported having more than 350 cases of this rare cancer — nine of which were deadly.

“This is a rare type of cancer. It’s a cancer of the immune system called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, in particular, an anaplastic large cell lymphoma,” said Dr. Stephanie Williams, a doctor specializing with hematology and oncology with Spectrum Health.

In the U.S., 300,000 women get breast implants annually.

There are more questions than answers at this point, but Williams said it could be connected to a biofilm — or organisms that develop against any implanted tissue that may lead to inflammation.

“We know in some cases inflammation, in particular, chronic long-standing inflammation can lead to the development of some types of cancer like lymphoma, which is cancer of the immune system,” said Williams.

Doctors are also taking into account the texture of the implant. Of the 359 cases reported, more than 200 where connected to implants with a textured rather than smooth surface.

“Any change in implant certainly any lump, new lump or something that feels different in the breast should notify her doctor,” Williams said.