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Lymphoma

WILL MY IMPLANTS RUPTURE?

These days implants are very resilient, and the leak/rupture rate is very low. It is not zero, however. To be honest it is unpredictable how long an implant will last. Most companies give “lifetime warranties” on their implants. This is not however a guarantee. I have seen implants last 30-40 years and yet on the other hand I have seen implants leak after only 4-5 years. What is important is to accept that they are not indestructible and if you have implants it may well be that at some time the implant itself will leak.

HOW WILL I KNOW IF MY IMPLANTS HAVE LEAKED?

A leaked implant may cause no problems and no symptoms or signs whatsoever. If the implant itself breaks down and the silicone inside it remains entirely within the pocket of scar tissue which you have formed around the implant, there may be no signs whatsoever in the appearance or to examination to suggest that the implant has leaked.

On the other hand, if the implant has leaked and the silicone has escaped through the pocket of scar tissue that has formed around it, you may have an area of tenderness or indeed a tender lump.

WILL I GET LYMPHOMA FROM MY IMPLANTS?

The first of the answers to this question is to know what lymphoma is. Lymphoma is a blood cell cancer. It is important to realise that the incidence of this lymphoma in association with implants is rare. It has not been found in association with smooth surfaced implants. It has only been found in association with textured surfaced implants. Depending on the degree of texturing of the implant the incidence varies from approximately 1:2,500 patients through to 1:85,000 patients.

So, the overall answer to this question is that yes, it is possible for you to develop lymphoma in association with your breast implants, but it only occurs with textured surfaced implants and the incidence is very low.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I DEVELOP A LYMPHOMA?

The first sign in the development of lymphoma is usually a collection of fluid around a breast implant in the space between the implant and the scar pocket which you have formed. Technically a collection of fluid in this space is called a seroma. The vast majority of these collections are not lymphoma but are simple collections of fluid. If you do develop a collection of fluid it is important to have an ultrasound of your breasts and drainage of some of the fluid. This fluid should then be checked to see if there are cells in the fluid that are suspicious of lymphoma. Other findings consistent with lymphoma would be new lumps in the breast tissue or the axilla (armpit). If you notice such lumps, it is important not to ignore them but to have them investigated.

IF MY IMPLANTS LEAK WILL THE SILICONE SPREAD THROUGH MY BODY?

If your implants leak, the silicone may remain entirely within the pocket of scar tissue which you have formed. If that silicone escapes outside of that pocket, it can spread into the local tissues and this can cause lumpiness and pain. Our bodies have a cleaning system referred to as the lymphatic system. The job of this system is to clean away unusual or abnormal material. The silicone of older, very soft implants can be absorbed into the lymphatic system and can migrate via that system toward the lymph nodes in the armpit. These lymph nodes are actually super fine filters and will generally filter out the silicone. This can cause some lumpiness in the lymph nodes in the axilla and it can show up on ultrasounds. Spread of silicone beyond the lymph nodes is incredibly rare.

WILL I GET BREAST IMPLANT ILLNESS BECAUSE I HAVE SILICONE FILLED IMPLANTS?

Breast implant illness as a medical disease is at this point in time very poorly defined. Suffice it to say that its identity as a recognisable medical illness is not clearly scientifically proven. I believe that there are patients who have symptoms of a generalised type which they identify as being related to their breast implants. Indeed, I have an extremely small number of patients that fit into this category. My personal belief is that if you have a low grade bacterial or viral contamination of your breast implants (which can occur subsequent to a urinary tract infection or a dental infection) then your body may react to that virus or bacteria and produce a normal reaction process. This does not mean that the breast implant is causing the illness but rather the infection associated with the breast implant is contributing.

Considerable research went into concerns about “breast implant illness” in the late 80’s and early 90’s and no significant diseases were found to be associated directly with silicone and no connection between “breast implant illness symptomatology” and breast implants was able to be proven.

IN SUMMARY

Complications related to breast implants are actually quite rare and when they occur, are usually relatively easily manageable. You can be reassured that serious complications related to breast implants occur infrequently.

If you do have implants in and are concerned it is wise to go and see your GP and it is best to go and see the plastic surgeon that put the implants in for you. If you have information which identifies the implants you have in, it is a good idea to take that with you.