There have been recent news articles lately from the New York Times and the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery on the safety of breast implants, particularly with regards to BIA-ALCL or Breast Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma. This is a very rare type of T-cell lymphoma that can develop following breast implants. The frequency of occurrence of BIA-ALCL is estimated to be at 1 in 300,000 breast implants. This number may change over time with increased reporting.
Who is at risk for developing ALCL? At this time, the incidence of this cancer is very rare. It primarily has been recognized in women undergoing implant revision for late onset swelling. Swelling following breast implants is typical during recovery which can last for several months. In cases of ALCL, swelling would typically not occur until a year or more following surgery, with around 8 years being the most common.
The treatment for ALCL for Stage 1 diagnosis would involve ultrasound or MRI to substantiate diagnosis, implant removal and capsulectomy. This would typically resolve the problem completely. For patients who are Stage 2+, where the cancer has spread beyond the capsule, further treatment with chemotherapy may be required.
Which breast implants are the safest? The vast majority of these cases have occurred in women who have received textured implants. Smooth implants have not had this complication other than for those who had a textured tissue expander prior to surgery. In my practice, I do not and have not used textured implants for over 25 years, so there should be very little cause for concern about developing ALCL if you’ve received breast implants from our office. Most of the implants involving BIA-ALCL have been Allergan implants. In our office we use Mentor and IDEAL implants exclusively.
We offer a range of breast implant types and sizes; saline, silicone gel, and the newest IDEAL structured breast implant. If you have any concerns about late onset swelling with your breast implants, please contact your plastic surgeon for further evaluation.