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Ask the Expert: New FDA information could connect breast implants and cancer

The FDA released information that can connect breast implants to a rare blood cancer. (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - The Food and Drug Administration recently provided new information about a possible connection between breast implants and cancer.

Cancer specialists at Saint Elizabeth Healthcare, a Cincinnati medical provider, said the FDA just released an update to the numbers they have been tracking related to breast implants and cancer since 2011.

The FDA has now identified 359 cases and nine deaths linked to this association.

A startling headline that read "Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL)" explains there is an association between breast implants and this specific type of rare blood cancer.

WKRC asked Dr. Michael Guenther, who is a surgical oncologist, to break down what this means.

"The bottom line is it was a vary rare event. It happened in perhaps one out of 15,000 women with an augment or a reconstruction. It was more common in women who had a textured implant, than those who had a smooth implant," Dr. Guenther said. "Nobody needed to have implants removed prolifically. It was done if something happened, so patients are happy and fine and don't need to do anything else."

He confirmed that this is not from one company, one style of implant, or what's inside of them.

Dr. Guenther explained, "It actually was thought to arise from what we call a bio film, which is a small layer of bacteria clinging to the surface of a textured implant. And then in that little micro-environment, perhaps creating the carcinogens that led to a cancer."

He said there's some important and specific information that women need to know about the information found so far. It's up to women to take that information to their doctor to find out the benefits and risks, and perhaps what they need to know for the future.

"Just be aware of the way you normally are. If you are consistent with all your imaging and are normal if you have breast tissue, there's nothing to be afraid of," Dr. Guenther adds. "One of the questions people ask is what's the prognosis for this? What's the treatment? Interestingly enough, for about nine out of ten women, the treatment was simply to remove the implant and the capsule around it. Overall the outcome of it, was that 90% of people were cured from this disease."

Women should know how to identify early warning signs, such as pain, swelling and lumps after implants.

The FDA reports it will continue to identify new cases and share them in the future.

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