In recent months, we have been following medical news about breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). This rare form of cancer affects people who have undergone breast augmentation surgery with textured implants. Even though the condition is not common, we feel patients should be aware of the potential risks involved.
Dr. Paul G. Pin and the team at his Dallas, TX plastic surgery center would like to consider some basics about BIA-ALCL, including the most common signs and symptoms of this condition.
About Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL)?
Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) is a spectrum of disorders that affects patients with breast implants. This condition does not affect the breast tissue itself. Instead, BIA-ALCL can cause the benign accumulation of fluid around the breast implants (a seroma), or it can cause a rare type of lymphoma.
Studies have identified 414 confirmed cases of BIA-ALCL since the condition was first reported almost two decades ago. In this time, 16 breast augmentation surgery patients have died as a result of BIA-ALCL.
Signs and Symptoms of BIA-ALCL
The most common signs and symptoms associated with BIA-ALCL are as follows:
- Swollen breasts
- Sore breasts
- Formation of a lump on the breasts
- Firmness or hardness of the breasts
The symptoms of BIA-ALCL may appear anywhere from two years to 28 years after the breast augmentation was performed. On average, symptoms will typically show up around 8 years after surgery. Women with textured breast implants should note any growths, pain, or changes to their breasts should they arise, and speak with their doctor as soon as possible.
Links to Textured Breast Implants
So far, research has shown that only textured breast implants cause BIA-ALCL. Women with smooth breast implants are not at risk of developing the condition. Researchers also noted that there is no greater likelihood for BIA-ALCL if patients have silicone or saline breast implants. The texture of the implants is the key factor.
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery developed a grading system to determine a patient’s BIA-ALCL risk. The higher the grade, the more textured the surface of the breast implant:
- Grade 1 (Smooth Implants) - Zero risk of BIA-ALCL
- Grade 2 (e.g. Microtexture, Siltex) - 1 in 82,000 risk of BIA-ALCL
- Grade 3 (e.g. Macrotexture, Biocell) - 1 in 3,200 risk of BIA-ALCL
- Grade 4 (e.g. Polyurethane) - 1 in 2,800 risk of BIA-ALCL
Is BIA-ALCL Curable?
Yes. When BIA-ALCL is caught early, treatment for the condition is quite successful. This is why we want to stress yet again that breast augmentation patients be mindful about changes to their breasts.
What Should I Do If I Have Textured Breast Implants?
If you currently have textured breast implants, you should monitor your breasts for symptoms. If you are concerned about the risk of BIA-ALCL, you can discuss other options with your general practitioner or with your plastic surgeon. Expert insight can be offered as needed.
Learn More about Breast Augmentation Surgery
To learn more about breast augmentation surgery and what you should know going into surgery, be sure to contact an experienced cosmetic plastic surgeon. Dr. Pin is here to answer all of your questions and address your concerns.