Breast implants increase cancer risk 50-fold: health regulator

Karen O'Sullivan

Women with breast implants have a much higher risk of cancer than first thought, according to Australia's health regulator.

The Therapeutics Goods Administration is warning augmentation increases the risk of cancer 50 fold, after more than 40 cases and three deaths were linked to implants.

When cancer survivor Kristyn, who only gave her first name, looks in the mirror, she sees half the woman she used to see.

Affecting up to 1 in 1000 women who have had implants, the disease is caused by infection in tissue around the implant. Picture: 7 News
Affecting up to 1 in 1000 women who have had implants, the disease is caused by infection in tissue around the implant. Picture: 7 News
The risk is only an issue for women with textured implants. Picture 7 News
The risk is only an issue for women with textured implants. Picture 7 News

Kristyn has had both implants removed, all her breast tissue removed, and some of the muscle removed.

“The end result was not attractive. Not pretty at all,” she told 7 News.

The woman said the first sign of the lymphoma was a ballooning right breast.

"It was actually distending, so essentially it was just increasing in size," Kristyn said.

Now, doctors have found this rare cancer's a lot more common than first thought: affecting up to one in 1000 women who have had implants.

Forty-six Australian women have been diagnosed and three have died from the disease.

Caused by an infection in tissue around the implant, it's only an issue for women with textured inserts, which have replaced smooth-surface inserts in almost all surgeries in the past 10 years.

Breast cancer survivor Kristyn has had both implants removed, all her breast tissue removed, and some of the muscle removed. Picture: 7 News
Breast cancer survivor Kristyn has had both implants removed, all her breast tissue removed, and some of the muscle removed. Picture: 7 News

The Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons’ Dr Gazi Hussain said the warning signs do not often appear straight away.

"Sometimes these can present up to eight to 10 years after the implant has been put in.

"And it's not something that we need to be panicking women over, but it's certainly something that we need to be making women aware of," he said.

Doctors say early detection is the key to saving lives. Picture: 7 News
Doctors say early detection is the key to saving lives. Picture: 7 News

Associate professor Anand Deva of MQ Health said early detection was the key to saving lives.

"If it's picked up early, as was in fact the case with the majority of women in our study, then it is curable."

Surgeons have developed a new 14-point plan to minimise infections when implants go in. Concerned women should see their GP.