Women take legal action over breast implant cancer risk

Laura Donnelly
Linzy Bromfield, 50, is one of the women who is taking legal action - in her case against the manufacturer. - BBC

Twenty women in the UK are taking legal action after developing cancer linked to their breast implants.

Surgeons said victims had been treated almost as “human guinea pigs” without being informed about the possible risks they might face.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, which regulates medical devices in the UK, is currently collecting data on women affected by breast implant associated-anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).

The rare type of disease is a cancer of the immune system.

The risk is estimated to effect one in every 24,000 implants sold. More than 50 women have been diagnosed with the condition in the UK, and hundreds more worldwide.

One manufacturer, Allergan, has issued a worldwide recall of some textured implants, which have been linked to most cases of breast implant-associated lymphoma.

Linzy Bromfield, 50, is one of the women who is taking legal action. She paid privately for breast augmentation in 2005 after having two children, but 13 years later, found one breast had become so swollen she was unable to wear her bra.

She had fluid drained from the breast in an NHS hospital and was later diagnosed with implant-associated lymphoma. She had both of her implants removed and has been free of disease since.

Other women have needed further treatment, including chemotherapy. Mr Nigel Mercer, chairman of an advisory group of surgeons monitoring cases of the cancer for the MHRA, said women were not being given enough information about the potential risks of implants, and warned that they were not necessarily for life.

The plastic surgeon told the BBC: "There are unknowns with any implant, but it does mean we are using our entire population as human guinea pigs, almost."

Scientists believe the disease could be a reaction to the textured surface of the implant or a bacterial infection. Manufacturer Allergan said patient safety was a priority and it would support informative labelling "to promote and advance the safest use of breast implant products".

"We continue to invest in and support work to further understanding and increasing awareness of BIA-ALCL," the company said.