What is the connection between breast implants and rare lymphoma?

Jul 31, 2019 | Breast Surgery

A rare form of cancer has been linked to certain breast implants. Should you be concerned?

Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) is a rare form of cancer that affects the immune system. It can develop in various parts of the body, including the skin and lymph nodes. Although very rare, the illness has affected a small number of people with breast implants — read on to find out about the warning signs and why it sometimes occurs.

What is BIA-ALCL?

BIA-ALCL is a rare form of lymphoma that develops in the breast around the implant. The illness first appears in the fluid surrounding the implant, in the area between the capsule and the implant itself. If left untreated, BIA-ALCL can spread to the surrounding tissues.

What are the warning signs?

The first signs of the disease usually include fluid build-up and irritation around the breast implant, as well as inflammation and swelling in the breast or armpit. These symptoms often develop many years after an implant has been placed. You may also notice symptoms like fatigue, fever, unexplained weight loss and a loss of appetite.

If you notice any unusual swelling in your breasts, the best course of action is to come in for a check-up. Mr David Morgan will perform an examination and check for any abnormalities and provide treatment as soon as possible if required.

How high is the risk?

Studies show that most individuals who have been diagnosed with BIA-ALCL have textured implants, rather than smooth implants. The exact cause of the illness remains unclear.

It is important to note that the risk of developing BIA-ALCL is actually very small.

Research tends to show that the incidence increases with an increasing degree of texturing on the implant surface.  There have been no reported cases of the illness developing in patients who have only been exposed to smooth breast implants.

Should we be concerned?

If you have breast implants, there is very little reason to be concerned, especially if your implants are smooth. There is currently no recommendation to remove textured implants that are otherwise not causing any symptoms.  The number of reported cases of BIA-ALCL in patients with breast implants is very small, so if you are considering a breast augmentation procedure, you should not feel anxious about the risk of the disease. While it’s important to stay informed and to know the risks associated with the surgery, the majority of people with implants don’t have anything to worry about. We encourage you to raise any questions and concerns with Mr David Morgan at your initial consultation.

Can it be treated?

Fortunately, this rare form of lymphoma can be treated, and, in most cases, the disease is curable. If you have been diagnosed with BIA-ALCL, your doctor will check if the disease has spread throughout your body before planning treatment. If the disease is only present around the implant, surgery is generally performed to remove the implant, as well as the scar capsule. Once the disease has been successfully removed, you may need to go for follow-up imaging tests, but re-occurrence is very rare after surgical removal of an implant.

If you would like to find out more about ALCL or breast implants in general, please don’t hesitate to get in touch to arrange a consultation with Mr David Morgan. He is happy to discuss both the benefits and potential risks of breast implants in detail with you.