In 2011, the FDA became aware of some rare cases of anaplastic large cell lymphoma that were possibly linked to breast implants. Five years later, the World Health Organization identified breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) as a type of T-cell lymphoma. Reporting of the condition was limited, so the FDA and WHO were unable to identify the prevalence of BIA-ALCL. Since then, the FDA has focused efforts on gaining a greater understanding of the condition.
What is BIA-ALCL?
BIA-ALCL is very rare, and it is not a type of breast cancer. Rather, it has been designated as a type of cancer that affects the immune system (non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma). It is most often identified in fluid and scar tissue around a breast implant. In some cases, the cancer spreads to other parts of the body. Risk for BIA-ALCL appears to be low, but it can lead to serious complications, including death, if it is not diagnosed and treated early.
What are the Symptoms of BIA-ALCL?
Women who are diagnosed with BIA-ALCL do experience some common symptoms. In many cases, the symptoms are localized around or near the implant. Women may have symptoms shortly after the surgery for implants or years later. Some of the identified symptoms of BIA-ALCL include:
- Mass around or near the implant
- Persistent swelling
- Lump under the skin
- Skin rash over the breast
- Lump in the armpit area
- Hardening of the breast area
- Capsular contracture (significant scar tissue around the implant)
How Fast Does BIA-ALCL Spread?
BIA-ALCL is a slow-moving type of cancer. Fortunately, this means that the prognosis is good for women who receive treatment early. The cancer typically starts in the scar tissue around the implant, and not in the breast tissue. It may spread to the lymph nodes near the breast.
How Many Cases of BIA-ALCL Are There?
BIA-ALCL research indicates that the cancer develops in approximately one in 1,000 women. Some studies report even lower rates at one in 30,000 women. Currently, fewer than 10 women are diagnosed with BIA-ALCL each year. Most, but not all, cases occur in women who have textured implants. Cases have been identified in women with silicone and saline implants, including women who have breast augmentation and breast reconstruction with implants.
Is BIA-ALCL Treatable?
As with any type of cancer, outcomes are closely tied to early detection and treatment of BIA-ALCL. The first step is to determine the location of the cancer, including if it has spread beyond the area of the breast implant. The breast implant and scar tissue are removed. If the cancer is found beyond the implant area, treatment by an oncologist may be required. After the initial treatment, imaging and blood tests may be required for up to two years to verify that the cancer has been successfully treated.
Learn More About BIA-ALCL (Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma)
If you believe that you have symptoms of BIA-ALCL, contact us today to schedule an appointment at Plastic Surgery Associates. Dr. MaDan and Dr. Hueneke evaluate your symptoms and recommend a course of treatment.