Media reports have appeared in the recent weeks regarding textured breast implants and an uncommon form of cancer called “breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma” (or BIA-ALCL). In July, as a result of concerns expressed by the FDA, one of the manufacturers of textured breast implants (Allergan) issued a voluntary recall of its Biocell textured breast implants and textured tissue expanders from the market. Textured breast implants and smooth surface breast implants are routinely used by plastic surgeons for both cosmetic and reconstructive purposes. Textured breast implants have a slightly bumpy surface, similar to that of an orange. Smooth surface implants have a perfectly smooth, seamless surface.
BIA-ALCL is not breast cancer. It is an uncommon, highly treatable type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that can develop in the scar tissue that naturally forms around breast implants. To date, there have been no confirmed cases of BIA-ALCL in women who have had only smooth surface breast implants or smooth surface tissue expanders.
Due to the low risk of developing BIA-ALCL, the FDA does NOT recommend that textured breast implants be removed unless one is experiencing unusual or suspicious symptoms. The main symptom that would raise concerns for possible BIA-ALCL is a collection of fluid around the implant or other unexplained swelling. Additional concerning symptoms may also include new onset of pain, a lump in the breast or lymph node in the armpit, rash, fever, weight-loss or new/unexpected changes in breast shape, including asymmetry.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, or would like to be evaluated regardless, please contact my office. During our consultation and examination, we will discuss your specific situation, order the appropriate tests to determine if any treatment is indicated, and review your best options. Your health and safety will always be my top priority.
Women who develop BIA-ALCL are usually cured by removing the implant and the scar tissue surrounding it. Some patients may require additional treatment (such as radiation or chemotherapy).
For additional information about BIA-ALCL, the website of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (PlasticSurgery.org/ALCL) offers a great deal of information for patients. Of course, I will also make myself available to personally answer any of your questions and concerns.