Briella TomassettiSep 6, 2018, 2:06 pmSep 6, 2018, 3:58 pm

Breast cancer survivor is told her implants have risk to cause a different cancer

Jennifer Hunt of Wading River aims to educate other survivors about the potential health hazard


WADING RIVER — A breast cancer survivor is facing a new battle after finding out her surgical implants could cause a completely different type of cancer.

Jennifer Hunt was diagnosed with breast cancer at 38. The twist of fate came eight years after her operation.

"I got a mastectomy so I wouldn't have to worry month to month what was going to happen, and I thought I was free and clear, and everything was going to be fine from now on. And now, to worry about what's in there now could cause cancer is upsetting to me," Hunt says.

A doctor from the Sloan Kettering Memorial Cancer Center who performed Hunt's reconstructive surgery recently sent her a letter that reads in part, "Recent research studies have suggested that some people with breast implants have a very low risk of developing breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). BIA-ALCL is a very rare and highly treatable type of cancer that can develop around a breast implant.”

"This is an unusual form of cancer. It’s a cancer that involves white blood cells, which is part of the immune system. So, it's technically an immune system cancer," explains Dr. Jesse Stoff, a cancer expert and the owner of Integrative Medicine of New York in Westbury.

Studies show that between 1 in 40,000 people with breast implants develop BIA-ALCL. Since 1997, less than 500 reports have been submitted to the U.S. Federal Drug Administration. Symptoms may include a lumpy or tightening feeling around the implant, but are usually rare. Still, Dr. Stoff says it's a major cause for concern.

"Their rate of mutation, their rate of spread, and the places that they spread to can all cause life-threatening situations in a relatively short period of time," Dr. Stoff says.

Although BIA-ALCL has been reported with all types of implants, studies suggest that it is more common among people who have textured breast implants. Hunt says her doctors recommended textured implants because they would not shift or rupture.

"To me, it sounded like a no brainer, like, 'Pick the best ones that they have.' So that’s what I did. They recommended those were the best and they would look the best," Hunt says.

Allergan, the manufacturers of Hunt's implants, responded to media reports on BIA-ALCL. The manufacturer claimed, "Patient safety is Allergan's first priority. Allergan's breast implants have been used for more than 40 years in more than 100 countries, including Australia."

The company also added BIA-ALCL to its warranty if a customer develops the rare disease. Allergan added in part that, "The warranty provides out-of-pocket surgical cost assistance toward the removal of the breast implants and the associated scar tissue. Allergan will also provide replacement implants at no charge."

Because she has not developed cancer from the implants, Hunt says she would have to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket to get the implants removed, which is an added expense she cannot afford.

Since Hunt received the news, she has joined a BIA-ALCL support group on Facebook.

"My message is for other women to be aware of what kind of implants they have and to know that they're still selling these implants and they should know not to get them," Hunt says.

Hunt is also helping to pass along a petition with more than 21,000 signatures to motion the Food and Drug Administration to have a hearing about breast implant illness and complications.

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