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A Health Warning Has Been Issued Claiming Breast Implants Could Be Linked To A Rare Cancer
ncreasingly, more women are removing their breast implants and opening up about their ‘explant’ surgery. From Rachel Finch to Chrissy Teigen and Ashley Tisdale, celebrities have been quick to voice their reasoning behind removing their implants, ranging from ruptured implants, pain, or simply because they’ve grown out of fake boobs and are wanting to embrace a more natural look. But as health officials are now warning, those who are yet to have their breast implants removed could be at risk as 76 cases here in Australia have been linked to a rare cancer.
After several people with breast implants developed a rare form of cancer, doctors discovered that breast implants could be associated with anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), which is a kind of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In a statement, Safe Care Victoria explained: “At March 2021, the federal regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), is aware of about 76 cases of BIA-ALCL in Australia.”
“Please be vigilant for symptoms including a lump on your breast, unexplained swelling on one side or an accumulation of fluid around the implant,” the statement read. “While the risk is low, these may be signs of a rare form of cancer called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma.”
Other symptoms of the rare cancer include pain in the breast, a rash on the breast or lump on the breast, in the armpit or elsewhere. Doctors urge those with breast implants to speak to their GP immediately if a change is noticed in the breast, and suggest that this cancer is highly curable if diagnosed and treated early.
While countless Australians have undergone breast implant surgery, doctors advise that only those who are experiencing symptoms should have their breasts examined by a GP and that there is no reason for implants to be removed if symptoms aren’t present.
Whether this news will have a bearing on breast explant surgery remains to be seen. So far, as One Cosmetic, a Sydney based cosmetic surgery practice reports, “In the past two to three years, explant surgery has been growing. We have experienced a 30-50 per cent rise of the procedure in our clinic alone. On average we are performing 12-14 breast implant removal procedures each month.”
As Chrissy Teigen remarked on her Instagram post in which she announced the surgery, “I’m getting my boobs out! They’ve been great to me for many years but I’m just over it. I’d like to be able to zip a dress in my size, lay on my belly with pure comfort! No biggie! So don’t worry about me! All good. I’ll still have boobs, they’ll just be pure fat. Which is all a tit is in the first place. A dumb, miraculous bag of fat.”
That said, breast augmentations continue to be one of the most popular cosmetic surgery procedures here in Australia and it goes without saying that when it comes to your body, it’s your choice. As far as BIA-ALCL is concerned, the risk depends on the type of implant selected and is estimated to be between one in 2,500 and one in 25,000. Health officials recommended that anyone seeking breast augmentation surgery and implants discuss with their doctor what implant is best. Textured surface implants tend to be associated with a higher risk compared to those with a smooth surface.
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With October marking International Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month, we spoke to survivor of multiple miscarriages and women's health lobbyist Samantha Payne, CEO and Co-Founder of Pink Elephants - Australia’s only national support service dedicated solely to miscarriage and early pregnancy loss.
Here's her story.
What is your experience with miscarriage?
I have lost 3 babies to miscarriage, my first was a missed miscarriage - I walked into a scan expecting to show my then-toddler her baby sibling on the screen only to be met with 'I'm sorry there is no heartbeat.' I had to endure a weekend with that baby dead inside of me before I could be fitted in for a D&C.
My next miscarriage happened 6 months later - I started to bleed on holiday with friends, I told no one, I was deeply ashamed. I passed that baby alone in the shower at 3am, forever traumatised as I had to flush the remains down the toilet.
My final loss was just last year another miscarriage I started to spot and I just knew, the Doctor that saw me this time asked if we could see a flicker on the screen she thought there was a heartbeat, astounded we asked for a second opinion, where it was confirmed my baby had died.
How did you process the trauma?
With my first two losses, I didn't cope. I poured everything into Pink Elephants and having another baby. I had another pregnancy but was completely terrified the whole time, I didn't bond with this baby, no names, no gender reveal, wearing a brave face every day pretending I was grateful. When Johnny was 4 months old it all caught up with me: I had postpartum anxiety and post-traumatic stress as a result of my losses and not processing the trauma. With counselling and medication, I began to heal and process my losses. My loss last year was different: I took bereavement leave, I gave myself permission to grieve our baby girl and mourn my future with her. I spoke with others in our community, I went back to counselling, and I took the time I needed to start to heal.
How did you get the courage to launch Pink Elephants?
I don't think it was courage, in the beginning, I think it was my anger at the lack of support and validation that I chose to channel into something positive.
I never want my daughter to go through what I did in the way I did. Women deserve so much more than what we currently get.
Last year took courage to come back and work in this space again after bereavement leave - the physical and emotional pain was real, the triggers of other women's stories are real but they are also cathartic. As is the change we create, I feel like my work is meaningful and makes a difference that's what carries me on, I know we can do so much more with the right support alongside us.
I want to next see more targeted action from our government - in particular the Department of Health - in addressing this issue. It's no longer ok to turn a blind eye to the death of our babies, our trauma, and our poor mental health because of the system failing us.
How can we support a friend that has been through loss like this?
You can be there for her, you can validate her loss, don't reduce it to 'at least' comments. You can't take away her pain but you can provide a safe space for her to share and feel listened to, empathised with, and supported. Like any other bereavement send flowers, we have collaborated on a LVLY nurture flower posy as a way to do this. Remember there is no timeline to grief and it's ok for her to still be upset for many months after, remember her due date, acknowledge it at the time, support her through other friends' baby showers.
How can women experiencing miscarriage access support?
They can head to www.pinkelephants.org.au to access our circle of support, which includes online peer support communities to connect with others through miscarriage, trying to conceive again, and pregnancy after loss. Specialised emotional support content, as well as shared stories and journeys, can be accessed through our website too.