‘I wanted them out’: Cancer concerns prompting second look at Biocell breast implants

Women with a specific type of breast implant are being warned that they may be at risk of a rare form of breast cancer.

Late last month, Health Canada suspended the licences for Allergan’s Biocell macro-textured breast implants. The agency said there have been 26 confirmed cases of breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma, of which 22 involve Allergan’s Biocell product.

Since being rolled out in the early 2000s, the units have been popular, according to Vancouver plastic surgeon Dr. Nick Carr.

“We used these implants a lot. There were certain advantages we thought would make them a better implant,” he said, adding that about 500 patients at his clinic had received them.

Carr said the units have been implanted in hundreds of thousands of women across the country, and that they have been used both as prosthetics for women who have lost breasts to cancer and for cosmetic surgeries.

Sarah Lovely said she got her implants nearly two decades ago after having two children, and has since decided they need to go as soon as possible.

I was told when I had them 17 years ago that they were the safest on the market, and that was why I chose them,” she told Global News.

“So I was shocked. And suddenly my desire to have them removed went forward. I wanted them out.”

The 52-year-old said she hasn’t had any problems with the implants, but that she no longer feels they’re worth the risk.

She isn’t alone. Carr said of the women he has spoken with there has been a high demand to have the implants removed — despite the fact that, for now at least, the procedure is done at the patients’ expense.

“Of the 500 women, I think we’ve got two or three hundred who want to see us like yesterday,” he said.

However, Carr noted that women with implants should not panic, adding that the concerns only refer to a specific implant, and even then, they only affect a small percentage of women who have them.

“If they’re doing well with the implants, the implants are comfortable, they haven’t had problems with pain or swelling or lumps in the breasts, then we’re telling them they really needn’t be worried to the degree that they’re planning to have the implants removed immediately,” he said.

As for Lovely, she said the issue has refocused her attention on the pressure that women face to look a certain way, and the challenges it creates being comfortable in their own bodies.

“You know, I’m a lot older now and I care a lot less about the breasts having to be perfect,” she said.

I would just say to my younger self, ‘Go that one step further of trying to be accepting of yourself.’ And that’s a hard one.”

— With files form Catherine Urquhart

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