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FDA: Breast implants may be linked to cancer

The FDA's announcement comes less than a year after the agency issued a black box warning on breast implants.

PHOENIX — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning to the public that breast implants can lead to some cancers.

The FDA said it is not common, but the acknowledgment from the agency is something thousands of women have been pushing for years.

“It was time to address this and bring it forth to the public," said Robyn Towt, a Valley advocate.

Robyn Towt is one of the thousands of women fighting for transparency around the risks associated with breast implants. 

Earlier this month, the FDA made a major announcement she calls a step in the right direction.

“The FDA announced that there are some new cancers that are known to develop within the breast implant capsule," Towt said.

The FDA's announcement, which comes less than a year after issuing a black box warning on breast implants, said squamous cell carcinoma and various lymphomas can form in the scar tissue that surrounds a breast implant.

“It's a good announcement that the FDA is getting information out there. But it's bad for patients because it's yet another way that patients are being harmed, falling through the cracks," Towt said.

In its press release, the FDA said it believes cases of these cancers are rare.

“To say that something is rare is really not a true statement because we don't know what we don't know," Towt said.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons issued a statement informing its members of the announcement and outlined a list of several recommendations for plastic surgeons to inform patients and to monitor for potential side effects. Their statement reads in part:

"ASPS/PSF is committed to patient safety, advancing quality of care and practicing medicine based upon the best available scientific evidence. We will continue to monitor and review all new information as it becomes available to keep the plastic surgery community informed."

This isn't the first time the FDA has confirmed an association between breast implants and cancer.

The FDA previously identified breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). Additionally, in 2019, there was a worldwide recall of all Allergan textured breast implants due to the risk of developing cancer.

RELATED: Allergan recalls textured breast implant tied to rare cancer

“I think any new emerging information needs to be part of the informed consent process," Towt said.

Towt is a three-time cancer survivor who then became sick after getting implants. She said she felt better almost immediately after having her implants removed.

RELATED: She's the reason Arizona has a law requiring surgeons to warn patients about the dangers of breast implants

Towt has since discovered a massive network of women who have experienced similar breast implant illness symptoms. Facebook and other online groups raising awareness of the side effects have tens of thousands of members.

Towt has transitioned into a patient advocate and urges the FDA and plastic surgery communities to be more transparent.

“Everything comes with a risk. And we just have to be informed and make an educated decision about what we're willing to risk," Towt said.

Towt recently met with the FDA and presented data she collected showing very few people actually know about the FDA's recent actions and warnings.

She believes because women experiencing complications post-surgery will likely consult a variety of medical professionals, the FDA should issue a healthcare provider letter to inform providers across all specialties about the safety updates.

She also wants the FDA to send a letter to everyone who currently has breast implants to inform them of the new information.

“If they don't know this information and they don't know that breast implants can wreak this kind of havoc on some patients, it's just a shot in the dark," Towt said.

Earlier this year, Arizona became the first state in the country to require surgeons to present patients considering implants with documentation warning them of the risks.

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