Most of us-survivors know the story: Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy or any combination of the above. But after the dust settles, you may want to put your life back together again and try to reconstruct what was cut away from you. For many, it is not just for the appearance or to regain some symmetry and not feel lopsided. For me, there was another deep psychological reason. Before cancer (BC), when I was lying on my side at night I felt as if I was hugging something, soft and precious. It was just my breasts but as I was about to doze off, I felt as if I was hugging something, like a baby and this made me calm down and fall asleep. As in, baby is happy, all is well with the world… I did not have any reconstruction, so now I hug a teddy bear and think of the time when my kids were little and I was reading them stories in bed but I fell asleep myself instead, much faster…
There are several types of reconstruction. In some cases some tissue is taken from other parts of the body to form a breast. It is a long surgery, 7 hrs or more. But in other cases implants of saline or silicone are used. Smooth silicone implants run the risk of capsular contraction, a condition in which the tissue surrounding the implant(s) hardens. A newer kind, the textured implants can reduce the risk of capsular contracture, but it seems they bear a new danger in its place:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced that it has received 359 reports of Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma, or BIA-ALCL, a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as well as a range of other autoimmune-like symptoms including cognitive issues, fatigue and muscle pain. Nine of these women died from BIA-ALCL. The vast majority of cases had textured surfaces as opposed to smooth. Many patients have filed lawsuits.
Like many other cancers, it can take up to ten years for BIA-ALCL to develop, which helps explain why it took several years for the FDA to go from a potential link to an established one.
Symptoms of BIA-ALCL may include a breast lump or lumps, pain, swelling, fluid buildup, hardening of or mass around the implants.
Health Canada is about to ban textured breast implants, made by Allergan under the name Biocell after an investigation by Toronto Star, CBC News and Radio-Canada.
For the thousands of women having the implants, Health Canada recommends to “Speak with your surgeon about which type of breast implant you received. Conduct regular breast self-exams and see your doctor for periodic follow-up. If you experience unusual changes to your breasts, including breast pain, sudden swelling or a lump, consult your doctor.”
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