Hundreds of Aussie women whose breast implants caused cancer and other serious illnesses are preparing for a legal battle and taking on a pharmaceutical giant.
A class action lawsuit has been launched against Allergan, four years after the manufacturer issued the recall due to a link between the implants and Breast Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), a cancer of the lymphatic system.
Law firm Shine Lawyers wants to hear from women who have developed cancer due to the implants, is symptomatic, had the implants removed and left out of pocket after having the explants.
They include Queensland mum-of-three Sarah*, who withdrew from her superannuation to undergo an explant three years ago.
She now wants compensation from Allergan for the thousands spent on removing the implants and the pain caused, which left her fearing she would die.
Sarah (pictured with breast implants) has joined a class action lawsuit against pharmaceutical giant Allergan
Sarah (pictured before getting implants in 2013) wanted to feel more feminine
Sarah decided to get breast implants in 2013, a life lesson she now regrets.
‘I was flat-chested after having breastfeeding three children – I couldn’t even wear a bra,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
‘I was healthy, exercised daily and loved life, but I wanted to feel more feminine. And I felt really good after getting them.’
Sarah began feeling tired and rundown and gradually noticed other odd symptoms such as achy joints, hair loss and a yellow tinge to her eyes.
‘I didn’t think anything of it at the time and put the tiredness down to having young kids,’ she said.
She was diagnosed with pericarditis, the swelling and irritation of the tissue surrounding the heart.
‘I had fluid around my heart. I suffered from painful UTIs, constant headaches, stomach pain, brain fog, and all my joints would ache,’ she said.
‘I was having night sweats where I would wake up in a pool of sweat.’
‘It impacted every aspect of my life, including my business. I couldn’t enjoy everything I wanted with my three girls. I couldn’t even lift and pick up my youngest.’
Sarah began researching implants in 2019 after learning about the recall as her health deteriorated.
‘The Christmas before I took my implants out, I thought I was going to die,’ she said.
‘We were housesitting at the time. I was so sick that we got the night doctors out to give me medication.’
Sarah withdrew from her superannuation to fund her explants (pictured after the procedure)
Sarah says it took six months to recover from the explants in 2020 (pictured after the procedure)
The following Allergan products are part of the Shine Lawyers claim
· Natrelle salene breast implants;
· Natrelle highly cohesive anatomically shaped silicon fill;
· McGhan biodimensional silicone filled biocell textured breast implants;
· Natrelle inspira silicone filled breast implants;
· Natrelle silicone filled tissue expander;
· McGhan magna-site tissue;
· McGhan croissant shaped tissue expander
Sarah got the implants removed in 2020.
Looking back on the harrowing ordeal, she said it could have been so much worse and considers herself one of the lucky ones not to be diagnosed with cancer.
‘The day I had the explants, my little girl ran up to me and asked if I finally could lift her up; being still unable to pick up my baby made me so sad,’ she said.
‘It took six months to fully recover from the explants, but I was able to run and exercise again.’
‘I’ve been to hell and back, which you can’t put a price on but I’m just so grateful to see my daughters grow up.’
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Allergan for comment.
At the time of the 2019 recall, at least five Australia and New Zealand women had died of breast implant-associated (BIA) ALCL.
Another 100 Australian women had been diagnosed with (BIA) ALCL, including mum-of-five AnneMarie Sage Wood.
Shame and embarrassment held her back from seeking medical attention when she first noticed something was wrong with her breast implants.
‘I had them assessed, but was told the fluid was benign and that I had developed capsular contracture – the commonest complication with implants,’ she recalled in a Brisbane Times opinion piece in 2019.
AnneMarie Sage Wood (pictured) was diagnosed with BIA-ALCL in 2018
In 2018, she finally acted on her feelings and had the implants removed.
That’s when she received the shocking news – she had been diagnosed with ALCL cancer.
‘I was in total shock. I imagined the worst case, that I was going to say farewell to my family and die from this,’ AnneMarie recalled.
‘I wish I had known more about the symptoms and the risks related to my breast implants – I was not informed or educated.’
Mother-two Julie Luezzi, then 40, got Allergan ‘Biocell’ implants in 2002.
She died 11 years later, three months after she was diagnosed with ALCL cancer.
‘How could I possibly tell my children [that] not only do they have to deal with this happening to their mother, but she actually caused it?’ Ms Luezzi wrote following her diagnosis.
‘This was the worst by far of anything that had happened.’
Julie Luezzi died in 2013 several months after she was diagnosed with BIA-ALCL
Ms Luezzi didn’t want her sons to know why she died, a secret kept from them for five years
‘It was her dying wish,’ Julie’s sister Donna Ohlsen later told the Sydney Morning Herald.
‘I’ve kept that promise for five years, and I think that’s long enough. She’d understand why.’
It’s reported that one in every 2500-3000 women with these implants will develop lymphatic cancer.
Many cases develop 7-8 years after the implants are inserted, according to Shine Lawyers.
Symptoms of BIA-ALCL cancer include sudden swelling due to a build-up of fluid around the implant) or pain in a breast or the armpit, and occasionally a lump or rash
‘Some women will have scarring and disfigurement as a result of implant removal surgery and some will suffer health complications for the rest of their lives,’ Vicky Antzoulatos, Joint Head of Class Actions at Shine Lawyers.
‘It’s horrific that a product like this can be put to market and expose women to such grave risk. These implants were also used for breast reconstruction surgery on women who had already recovered from breast cancer, and this added another layer of illness, fear and medical expenses.
Visit Shine Lawyers for more about the class action against Allergan or email firstname.lastname@example.org.