The Quebec Health Department wants the thousands of women in the province who have received textured breast implants since 1995 to be warned of a potential cancer risk.
The government has asked the province’s hospitals and clinics to contact all patients who received that specific type of implant in the last 24 years to inform them of the symptoms of anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a form of cancer.
Department spokeswoman Marie-Claude Lacasse said Monday the chance of developing the cancer is very low — about one in 30,000 among women with the textured implants — but the government still wants women to be notified.
Quebec’s decision follows an update by Health Canada published in mid-February that noted an increase in the number of cases of anaplastic large cell lymphoma associated with the implants in Canadian women. As of Jan. 1, Health Canada had been informed of 22 confirmed and 22 suspected cases.
The federal department says this isn’t a breast cancer but a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma — a cancer affecting the immune system that can appear several months or even years after implant surgery.
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The province estimates that 15,000 Quebec women have received textured implants, which have a rougher surface that some doctors believe allows for better adhesion to surrounding tissue. Only about 10 per cent of Quebec patients receiving implants opt for the textured version.
The McGill University Health Centre in Montreal has set up a phone line and indicated it would contact patients to inform them of the “very low, but potential” cancer risk. Women with textured implants will be advised to visit their doctors if they have any symptoms of lymphoma, which include pain, swelling or a mass.
The hospital noted on its website that only one case has been reported in Quebec, and it was successfully treated.
Allergan Canada, one of the manufacturers cited in the lawsuit, says on its website that there has been no new clinical data analyzing the risks versus benefits of textured implants. The increase in the number of cases reported to Health Canada is mainly due to recent media attention and increased awareness of the disease, the company said.
France’s national agency for medicines and health products safety recommended in November that surgeons stop using textured breast implants. In December, it asked Allergan to recall the products currently on shelves.
In Quebec, a request for a class action was filed in January against the makers of textured breast implants, but it has not yet been authorized by the court.
Health Canada’s updated safety review of implant-associated lymphoma is expected in the coming months.