Women are currently asking whether breast implants complications such as a relatively unknown type of cancer — breast implant-associated anaplastic large-cell lymphoma – was avoidable. BIA-ALCL affects a small portion of more than 10 million women around the world who have received breast implants.
Nearly all the cases of this type of cancer have been connected to breast implants with a textured surface rather than those that are smooth. It is thought that the texturing may cause inflammation that subsequently leads to cancer. If detected early, breast implant-associated anaplastic large-cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) is considered curable. It is very important that women implanted with textured breast implants be made aware of this risk.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first identified a possible link between breast implants and BIA-ALCL in 2011, but very few cases were known to exist at the time so it was not possible to determine exactly what factors might increase the risk. But in March 2017, the FDA released a statement that this rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can develop after a person receives breast implants, based on more than 350 reports of BIA-ALCL and its connection to breast implants. At that time, nine deaths had been linked to cancer related to the implants.
Is BIA-ALCL an Avoidable Breast Implants Complication?
BIA-ALCL is not breast cancer. Instead, it is a rare T-cell lymphoma that can develop following breast implants, according to the World Health Organization. The major symptoms of BIA-ALCL include:
- Persistent swelling or pain in the area of the breast implant
- Fluid collection around the implant
- A noticeable mass or scar capsule around the implant
These symptoms may occur long after the surgical incision has healed, sometimes even years after the implant was originally positioned.
Just two years ago, only about 30 percent of plastic surgeons were discussing cancer risk with their breast implant patients. However, because most of the confirmed cases of BIA-ALCL have occurred in those with textured implants, the FDA now recommends that health care professionals provide the manufacturer’s labeling as well as any other educational materials to potential breast implant patients before surgery, and discuss with them the risks and benefits associated with the various types of implants. Research now points to the fact that breast implant complications such as this rare form of cancer should be avoidable.