Breast implants linked to cancer allowed in Canada despite ban in 40 countries
A woman who developed cancer after receiving textured breast implants is appalled that the surgical enhancements are still approved in Canada despite being banned in 40 countries, and she’s suing the implant-maker in hopes of protecting other women.
Terri McGregor from North Bay, Ont. underwent surgery to receive textured breast implants in 2009. Textured implants are covered with a rough, sandpaper-like exterior, which offer better adhesion to the body compared to smooth implants.
Two years after McGregor’s procedure, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an alert about textured implants, warning patients of the potential heightened risk of developing anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL).
McGregor, who discovered she had the lymphoma during a routine mammogram, says the manufacturer never warned her, even after the alert.
“I couldn’t believe that I had a medical device in me that could cause cancer that I didn’t know about,” McGregor told CTV News. She has since undergone surgery, four rounds chemotherapy and stem cell transplants to treat the cancer.
Globally, there are now an estimated 688 cases of lymphoma linked to the implants, with about 28 confirmed cases in Canada. More women are being tested.
McGregor has made it her mission to warn other women of the risk. She’s suing the makers of the implant, alleging that they failed to issue warnings of the cancer risk.
Her lawyer, Tanya Pagliaroli, says McGregor could’ve avoided cancer entirely had she been properly informed.
“Had she known in 2011 she would have removed her implants, and she would’ve avoided the cancer that she ultimately was diagnosed with,” she said.
The World Health Organization recently listed ALCL as a unique disease entity and cited evidence linking the unique lymphoma to breast implants. Last month, regulatory authorities in France called for a ban of Allergan-brand textured implants and cautioned doctors about using them altogether.
Despite this, the implants are still available in Canada and the U.S.
But some provinces are stepping in to warn women and plastic surgeons about the risk. In Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia, women with textured implants are being contacted, and other provinces have asked doctors to monitor the situation.
On Monday, McGregor is among a group of Canadian women headed to Washington for an international meeting to discuss the risk. Health Canada officials will also be at the Washington meeting as they conduct their own safety review. Results of the probe are due in the coming weeks.
New research shows that textured implants are linked to a rising number of lymphoma cases around the world. Dr. Anand Deva, a plastic surgeon in Australia and co-author of a recent study, says his team found a 50 per cent rise globally.
“When it first came out we were told it’s extremely rare, it’s one in 3 million. Then it’s one in 500,000. Then it’s one in 30,000. Now it’s one in 7,000. In Australia, some implants carry a risk of one in 2,800.”
Dr. Deva says the rising number of cases and lawsuits are an opportunity to consider how these cosmetic devices are sold and marketed – and how problems are tracked.
“If we had a system whereby all implants were tracked and monitored, any adverse outcomes were reported – mandatory reporting of these outcomes .. and ultimately academics like myself have access to analyze this data, then that in some ways would be a perfect situation where hopefully we would avoid having this periodic crisis and patient suffering.”
McGregor is advocating for Canada and the U.S. to block use of textured implants.
“Those implants are still being used today in this country. Stop – it’s insanity,” she said.
Sheis also worried that women with symptoms related to ALCL may be told not to worry because the incidencerate is low, or that some cases are misdiagnosed as inflammatory breast cancer.
Estimates suggest that about 35 million people across the world have textured implants, with 1.5 million inserted last year alone.