High Court action over rare breast cancer

Susan Axelby. Picture: Susan AxelbySusan Axelby. Picture: Susan Axelby
Susan Axelby. Picture: Susan Axelby
A WOMAN from South Yorkshire who had reconstructive surgery after a double mastectomy is taking legal action against the manufacturer of her breast implants after she developed a rare type of cancer.

Susan Axelby, 65, from Sheffield, was diagnosed with Breast Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2019.

Her health struggles began in 1999, when she underwent an elective mastectomy and reconstructive surgery due to a strong family history of breast cancer.

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She was fitted with Allergan macro-textured implants, a product which has been used extensively within the NHS for post-mastectomy reconstruction.

However, the implants did not settle properly and she had to undergo further surgery in 2001 to be fitted with a left sided breast expander, also a product manufactured by Buckinghamshire-based Allergan. Ten years later, she required further surgery and then had new Allergan-made implants fitted. Further problems developed and in March 2019, she was diagnosed with BIA-ALCL.

She has now begun legal action in the High Court arguing the products were unsafe and led to the development of her cancer.

Ms Axelby said: “I endured years of worry and a series of operations and now I discover that the very implants which were intended to help me have in the end caused a cancer I was trying to avoid.”

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Her solicitor Sarah Moore, of legal firm Leigh Day, said: “Allergan implants were suspended across Europe in December 2018 and withdrawn from the worldwide market in July 2020. Their risk of BIA-ALCL is low, but serious, and very real as Susan’s case shows.

"Hers is a particularly traumatic story because of the several operations she has had to undergo, each to address an unsatisfactory degeneration in the previous implant.”

A spokesperson for Allergan said the company does not comment on current or pending litigation matters.