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Iowa City woman warns against Allergan breast implants after FDA recall for possible link to cancer

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) — Breast implants made by Allergen are now being recalled in the U.S. at the request of the FDA after being linked to an unusual cancer.

So far there have been 573 cases and 33 deaths reported from cancer, with 481 of the cases clearly linked to Allergan BIOCELL textured implants, according to the FDA.

Tara Armstrong, who lives in Iowa City, said her health took a turn for the worse after getting these implants.

Armstrong made the tough decision of removing her breasts to avoid getting breast cancer as it runs on both sides of her family.

Little did she know the implants she’d eventually get would potentially put her at risk for a different kind of cancer.

“I would not have gotten the implants, at all, if I would’ve known this would happen,” said Armstrong.

Six years ago, Tara Amrstrong began her journey of a chest reconstruction. She tried Allergan textured implants at the direction of her doctors after having complications with smooth ones.

“I swapped out my second set of smooth implants for the textured ones, in hopes that it would mitigate the issues of the shifting and the constant pain I was having,” said Armstrong, “My rash got significantly worse after I got those in.”

For more than two years Armstrong’s body was covered in a rash, she became increasingly fatigued, losing her range of motion in her arms, and developed a large amount of fluid in her chest behind the implant.

“I don’t even know what normal is any more. I’m just grateful I can take a deep breath again because for the last years, I had not been able to take a deep breath without having bad chest pains and I couldn’t walk more than 2 blocks without getting winded. I used to walk 5 miles a day just for fun,” said Armstrong.

At first, no one knew the cause. Her doctor’s thought it might be eczema but even the prescribed creams weren’t helping to clear up her skin.

I had literally, a heavy weight on my chest, so I just kept looking for answers,” said Armstrong.

Eventually, she attended a FDA meeting in Washington, D.C. in March where she met other women experiencing the same problems.

“I have literally hundreds of patients contact me wanting information about removing implants, wanting to know even more importantly just what’s their risk,” said Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Elizabeth Potter during an NBC Nightly News special.

That’s when Armstrong realized she was showing some of the same symptoms of a type of cancer associated with these implants.

“By fall 2017, is when I started experiencing symptoms of the breast implant-associated anaplastic lymphoma, said Armstrong. Breast implant-associated anaplastic lymphoma is also known as BIA-ALCL and occurs most frequently in women with implants, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. 

She finally got them removed in June. However, the damage they caused, she said it’s irreversible, “It has derailed my life for the last 6 years and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.”

Armstrong wanted to speak out to spread awareness of the risks associated with this type of implants and the procedure in general. She said anybody who has an implant needs to check what type it is and seek immediate medical attention if they are experiencing any symptoms.

Now she wants to work toward getting a protocol in place for notification and removal and make sure patients are better informed about their options and the risks, especially when it comes to reconstruction.

Armstrong has started a Facebook support group to share information and connect with other women experiencing implant complications.

Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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