BIA-ALCL Frequently Asked Questions
As you might have heard, the FDA recently announced a recall of Allergan textured breast implants, due to a link between these implants and a rare form of cancer. If you or a family member have breast implants, we understand that you are likely to have questions and concerns about this topic. Here at Marina Plastic Surgery, we consider it our job to ensure that all our patients are well-informed on matters like these. Below you can find answers to some of the questions you might have. If you have a question that is not answered here, please reach out to us, and we will do our best to assist you.
What is BIA-ALCL?
The first thing to understand is that it is not breast cancer — it is an extraordinarily rare type of lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system that can be treated if it is diagnosed early enough. In technical terms, BIA-ALCL stands for “Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma.”
Am I at risk?
According to the FDA, “An individual’s risk of developing BIA-ALCL is considered to be low.” The risk is limited to patients with textured implants, not smooth implants. Even then, according to the most accurate information currently available, the risk assessment ranges from 1:3,817 to 1:100,000. There has not been a confirmed case of BIA-ALCL in patients with smooth implants, and the rate is no different between silicone and saline; it occurs in both cosmetic and reconstructive patients.
What symptoms should I look for?
Any unusual change in your breasts is worth getting checked by your doctor immediately. This could include persistent swelling, a lump or a bump, an increase in cup size, pain near and around the breast implant, or hardening next to the implant. We take any symptoms very seriously because BIA-ALCL can be treated easily and completely if patients see their doctor at the first symptom.
Are problems limited to textured breast implants?
It appears that this is the case. So far, there has not been a single case of BIA-ALCL in a patient with only smooth implants. There are many theories as to why this is the case: one of the most common is that there are more bacteria around textured implants due to the increased surface area of textured implants allows a higher number of bacteria around the implant, resulting in chronic inflammation.
Should I be screened for BIA-ALCL?
There is no blood test that can be used for screening whether you are more at risk than another textured implant patient, so it is important to see your doctor at the first sign of anything unusual. The expert opinion is that routine mammograms and breast exams are sufficient when there are no symptoms. But if a patient experiences a change in her breasts – especially if there is swelling or a lump – she should undergo immediate examination, imaging, and consultation with a plastic surgeon.
Should patients with textured implants get them removed?
The FDA is not recommending preventative removal in patients with no symptoms, and no plastic surgery societies are either. As with any breast implants, ongoing monitoring has always played an essential role in ensuring patient health. If you haven’t been to your doctor for a checkup in some time, it is a good idea to see them for a routine evaluation.
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