During a typical weekend Instagram scroll, I came across someone who mentioned a woman named Mel Robbins and her powerful video regarding breast implants. As someone who has implants myself, set to have them removed in a few weeks, I immediately searched Mel’s name and found her video. She describes how she just found out that the type of breast implants she has can be linked to a rare form of lymphoma. She goes on to share that she’s not playing around. Her implants are coming out — ASAP.
She funny-not-funny explains why she got implants, using a pair of her kid’s socks to demonstrate what her breasts looked like after having three children. In her caption she shares, “after breastfeeding my three kids, my boobs looked like a pair of gym socks filled with sand.” She’s adamant that she “hated” her breasts. This led to her decision to get implants.
Then, after a few years post-op, she was experiencing numbness in her right arm. She did some digging, wondering if she should have her implants removed. It was then that she learned that her particular breast implants had been recalled — a while ago.
In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration implant recall went into place on July 24, 2019. As of July 1, 2020, Allergen issued a campaign to reach patients who may not otherwise have been aware of the BIOCELL recall of textured breast implants and tissue expanders. The FDA reports that “Allergan also mailed notification letters to patients in three separate campaigns.”
“My freaking implants have been recalled,” Mel shares in her video. “Why didn’t the doctor tell me?” She doesn’t make mention of Allergen or their responsibility in notifying her, though she clearly didn’t know the implants had been recalled until she began researching implant removal on her own due to her arm numbness.
Why, specifically, were these particular implants and tissue expanders recalled? The FDA explains: “The FDA requested that Allergan recall all BIOCELL textured breast implants and tissue expanders marketed in the U.S. due to risk of breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), a cancer of the immune system.” The FDA adds, “Based on the currently available information, the FDA’s analysis demonstrated that the risk of BIA-ALCL with Allergan BIOCELL textured implants is approximately 6 times the risk of BIA-ALCL with textured implants from other manufacturers marketing in the U.S. and continued distribution of Allergan’s BIOCELL textured breast implants would likely cause serious, adverse health consequences, including death, from BIA-ALCL.” Yes, you read that correctly. Six times the risk.
They go on to share that as of September 12, 2019, there were 573 reported cases of BIA-ALCL. Of these, 481 had these recalled implants.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons shares “Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) is a rare and highly treatable type of lymphoma that can develop around breast implants.” They go on to say, “Data show BIA-ALCL occurs most frequently in patients who have breast implants with textured surfaces.”
They also note that though they stand behind the work they do, both cosmetic and reconstructive, they recognize that a patient can have “a negative reaction to any medical device, and if a patient desires to have their breast implants removed — for any reason — they should consult their plastic surgeon.” They add, “Like any medical device, breast implants carry a risk of complications.” Anyone having issues should promptly notify their doctor.
What’s a patient supposed to do if they, like Mel, now realize that they have the recalled implants? The FDA says that for patients without symptoms, they don’t currently recommend removal due to the “low risk of developing BIA-ALCL.” However, any concerns should be brought to the doctor’s attention.
Mel reminds her followers that yes, she’s a proponent and practitioner of eating organic and exercising—so they might be surprised by the fact that she got implants in the first place. However, now that she knows, she’s opting for implant removal, taking her own advice when it comes to her upcoming surgery.
She shares that she will not be spending her days worrying about the decision she made to get implants. “There’s zero benefit to feeling regret or guilt or shame,” she says. “Worrying about something you can’t control is a terrific way to torture yourself.”
She implores us to take her approach. “Are you going to let your worries consume you, or are you going to fight back and take control of your mind? I know my decision.” This sounds great, but how do we really stop the spiral of negative thoughts? Her approach is to interrupt any worrisome thought and replace it with thoughts of what’s next and what’s truth. In her case, her surgery is about a month away, she’s not alone, and she will deal with whatever comes next.
Mel promises to keep her followers updated and adds that she’s “feeling grateful and proud” that she knows what’s going on, she has a plan of action, and she’s facing this challenge with “a positive and resilient mindset.”
As someone who did very little research prior to getting implants in the same surgery as my bilateral mastectomy, I can empathize with Mel. Though I don’t have recalled implants, I struggle with taking a positive mindset going forward, as I count down the days to my explant surgery. However, my mind is made up, and all I can do, like Mel, is push forward, hoping for the best.