When Michelle Sheets got smooth saline breast implants she never fathomed they would lead to her being diagnosed with a rare, deadly cancer that she’d gotten from her implants. She was never told that breast implants could cause cancer, only that breast implants were ‘safe’.
When she was was 8 months pregnant Michelle was diagnosed with Breast Implant Associated – Squamous Cell Carcinoma (BIA-SCC).
The cancer wasn’t in her breasts, it was in the scar capsules that had formed around her breast implants. Cancer was found in both implant capsules. One capsule had a 4 inch by 2 inch tumour that was stuck to her sternum, ribs and back.
Michelle’s daughter is now 14 months old.
In recent days Michelle reached out for prayers that she would live long enough for her daughter to remember her. Michelle is facing another surgery because she’s experiencing pain in her sternum and ribs, in precise locations where there had been tumour adherence. Michelle is optimistic, but understandably concerned.
Two years is the life expectancy with her cancer and its now been 19 months since Michelle’s diagnosis.
Worldwide there are 7 cases. Four have died. Two Michelle isn’t sure of their outcome.
Breast Implant Associated – Squamous Cell Carcinoma is considered ‘very rare’ at this time with so few known cases, however we suspect such low stats reflect lack of testing vs true incidence. We believe as they begin testing for BIA-SCC diagnosed cases will increase. It’s likely women have died from Breast Implant Associated – Squamous Cell Carcinoma without ever having been diagnosed.
As with Breast Implant Associated – Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma, a few years ago women were being told they’d have a better chance of being struck by lightning – or even a meteor – than get BIA-ALCL. However, once they started testing for it cases began climbing sharply, with new cases now being diagnosed weekly.
Despite what she’s going through, and indeed because of what she’s going through, Michelle Sheets wants to raise awareness about Breast Implant Associated – Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
No matter what type of surface, textured or smooth, breast implants can and do cause cancer. Michelle’s implants had been replaced multiple times, but she only ever had smooth implants.
With Michelle’s cancer, at least so far, there’s a poor prognosis.
If you’ve got breast implants and have concerns, trust your gut. Don’t let a doctor dismiss your concerns. Many women are still being denied proper testing, and in fact many are laughed at by doctors when they express concerns about breast implant associated cancers. Doctors that behave in such a manner are uneducated regarding implant cancers and need to step up their bedside manner.
That said, panicking unnecessarily isn’t a good plan. Educating yourself about the risks and symptoms is important. Knowledge is power.
If you have breast implants and develop unusual symptoms, including sudden swelling, pain, itching, seroma (fluid), redness, hardness, lumps / masses you should seek medical attention. Symptoms of BIA-SCC can be similar to symptoms of BIA-ALCL.
Pain and swelling led to Michelle having a diagnostic ultrasound, which revealed she had a 6cm tumour in one breast, and 1cm in the other. A biopsy confirmed cancer.
** Based on her personal diagnosis and the life-threatening outcome it presents, Michelle takes a stronger position than what I’ve expressed. She adamantly encourages removing implants BEFORE symptoms occur. With Breast Implant Associated – Squamous Cell Carcinoma once there are symptoms she believes “it’s too late.” Her wish, of course, is that no other women will be faced with her diagnosis. **
I really ‘get’ why Michelle feels as she does. I’m simply gutted for her and for the women who have yet to receive diagnosis of a breast implant related cancer.
Ultimately I respect everyone’s right to make their own choice. I encourage women to research and decide what your own personal comfort level is with removing implants, or not.
A message from Michelle, in her own words:
“This may not matter to you now because it does not effect you, but it is coming. Ten, fifteen more years, there will be a surge of rare, aggressive, deadly cancers. Then, maybe people will start paying attention to this bullshit right here. And to be clear, I have replaced my implants as recommended. I have paid top dollar, top surgeons. You will NOT escape this. I even had top dollar saline implants. Explant with an explant specialist This might save your life. Do not wait until you have symptoms. It will be too late then. Love your body. Love yourself.Save yourself. I am not a rare exception to some rule. I am one of the first is all. It is not survivable. It is around 10 grand for these explant specialists.Don’t say you cant afford it. Your life is worth much more. Find a way. You found a way to.put them in.These are facts I learned in my own almost 2 years of diligent reaearch and phone calls. Spread this far and wide. My life matters!!”
You can read more about Michelle’s story in one of my earlier blog posts: