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Information on a Rare Breast Implant-Associated Cancer: BIA-ALCL

Posted December 07, 2018 in Blog, breast surgery

Woman planning to have a breast implant

Recent news stories and talk shows have reported on a cancer that has been associated with breast implants. Needless to say, this has sparked a number of calls to our office. Here is a summary of information on the subject to give you a better understanding of the disease, the risks, its diagnosis and treatment.

The type of cancer we are talking about is a lymphoma, not a breast cancer. It is called Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). As far back as 2011, there were early suspicions of an association with breast implants, but it wasn’t until 2016 that enough evidence had been collected to confirm this association. It has been seen in both cosmetic and breast reconstruction patients and in both saline and silicone implants. To date, almost all confirmed cases are associated with textured implants. In the US, only about 15% of implants placed are textured.   (Note: NO TEXTURED IMPLANTS have been used at North Dallas Plastic Surgery in over 25 years)

It is important to understand that this is a very rare form of cancer. Each year, over half a million breast implants are placed, just in the United States. There are only around 400 confirmed cases of this breast implant-associated cancer worldwide. That makes the estimated risk to an individual who has breast implants 1 in 30,000.

BIA-ALCL typically presents as a fluid collection (seen as tight, painful swelling) around the implant that develops many years after implant surgery. The average time from implantation to development of symptoms is around 7-8 years. In most cases, treatment is curative with removal of the implant and surrounding scar capsule. In many cases, a smooth implant can be placed immediately. Unfortunately, there have been more advanced cases requiring additional treatment and there have even been a small number of deaths.

In women who currently have breast implants and are having no problems, there is nothing that need be done. No governmental agency (e.g. FDA) or medical association (e.g. ASPS, ASAPS, AMA, ACS) have recommended preventative implant removal.

If you have any concerns, you should contact your surgeon, or I would be happy to set up an appointment to answer any questions.

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