'How is this acceptable?': Textured breast implant recipients react to rare cancer link
The Quebec Health Ministry is warning women in the province who received textured breast implants since 1995 of a potential cancer risk.
The ministry contacted all the province’s health facilities to have them open their records on breast reconstruction surgery patients to identify those who received the specific implants and have them notify the women.
The decision follows an update published by Health Canada in February. The federal department reported an increase in the number of cases of anaplastic large cell lymphoma associated with textured breast implants in Canadian women.
According to Health Canada, the disease is not breast cancer, but a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer that affects the immune system and could appear months or years after the breast implant surgery. The disease is usually characterized by the accumulation of fluid between the implant and the surrounding tissue.
The provincial health ministry estimated that roughly 15,000 Quebec women received the surgery during that time period.
Women who have received the implants are advised to watch for symptoms such as abnormal swelling of a breast, pain or palpable masses, among others, and make an appointment with their doctor to follow up.
A Montreal law firm has filed a class-action lawsuit against three breast implant manufacturers, but the Health Ministry insists the risk of getting Lymphoma from textured implants is 1 in 30,000.
One woman speaks out
After discovering a genetic mutation, Karen Lazarovitz had a mastectomy and breast implant surgeries in 2008 and 2011.
Over 10 years, she's had seven surgeries to deal with complications - then, last December, she made a discovery about her implants.
"I heard that these implants were pulled off the market in Europe," she said.
Despite low projected odds, Lazarovitz says she's still worried.
"I say this all the time: you have a recall on food, on cars, on anything in your house and they let you know," she explained. "I have not received a phone call form anybody to let me know that my impants could be toxic? How is that acceptable?"
Dr. Teanoosh Zadeh is a plastic surgeon. He says textured implants are used for women who need breast reconstruction - while there is a risk, he says it is found on the capsule of the implant.
"When caught early, it can be treated," he said. "It's curable with surgery - surgery usually involves removal of the capsule and the implant."
The MUHC has set up a hotline for patients with textured implants, and recommends check-ups with their doctor.
Lazarovitz adds that women should start by finding out what type of implant they have.
"There are so many women who don't even know if they have textured implants, and you need that information," she explained. "The way to do that is to reach out to your plastic surgeon."
Meanwhile, there are no plans to have textured implants taken off the market in Quebec.
If you are a patient who has had breast implant surgery at the MUHC and you notice unusual changes in your breasts, including pain, sudden swelling or a mass, please call 514-934-1934, ext. 35953, and leave your name, phone number, health insurance card number and hospital card number.
A nurse will contact you within 48 to 72 hours for a follow-up.