Should I Be Worried About BIA-ALCL?

Doctor educating patients about breast implant illness

Breast augmentation is one of the most popular procedures in America. In 2018 alone, more than 300,000 women got breast implants. Women who have undergone breast augmentation already who are considering getting breast implants at our Austin and Round Rock, TX, practices may be curious about the latest news involving an extremely rare condition called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).

This blog post will address questions we’ve heard from patients about this publicized health issue, hopefully alleviating any concerns.

What is BIA-ALCL?

BIA-ALCL is a rare disease that research has linked to textured breast implants. It is a cancer of the immune cells that can develop in the scar tissue surrounding textured breast implants. BIA-ALCL is not related to breast cancer and is specifically a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (a cancer of the immune system).

Researchers studying the link between implants and BIA-ALCL have identified symptoms that women with textured implants should be aware of. They include:

  • Swelling of the breast over days or weeks
  • A lump in the breast or armpit
  • Sudden firmness of the breast
  • Sudden pain around the implant site

If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your plastic surgeon right away so they can drain fluid and test it for cancerous cells. BIA-ALCL is highly treatable, especially when detected early. Most patients can be cured by removing the implants and the capsules of scar tissue surrounding them.

What causes BIA-ALCL?

Studies have shown that there is an exponentially higher rate of bacteria on textured implants than on smooth ones. The roughness of textured shells can give bacteria more space to cling and grow. Researchers theorize that chronic inflammation can be caused by these bacteria, which over time gives rise to a rare T-cell lymphoma.

What is the risk of developing BIA-ALCL?

The FDA’s latest figures show that between 1 out of every 3,817 and 1 out of every 30,000 women with textured breast implants risk developing BIA-ALCL.

Australian scientists conducted a separate study that specifically calculated the risk with textured implants compared to smooth. This study reported a 1 in 82,000 risk with smooth implants and a 1 in 3,200 risk with textured. It’s important to note that the vast majority of women in the U.S. choose smooth implants for their breast augmentation procedures. According to the FDA, textured breast implants represented less than 10% of breast implants sold in the U.S. in 2018.

While textured implants do increase BIA-ALCL risks, board-certified plastic surgeons are properly educated on steps to reduce bacterial contamination. In a 2017 study where board-certified doctors followed a 14-step aseptic process whenever using textured implants, there were zero reported bases of BIA-ALCL.

Are there any other breast implant-related illnesses?

BIA-ALCL is the main breast implant-related illness known today. A condition called breast implant illness (BII) is really an umbrella name that includes a range of symptoms that some women have linked to their breast implants. BII (breast implant illness) is a newer, less understood phenomena and there is no official diagnosis of such a condition. Common symptoms include memory loss, brain fog, fatigue, anxiety, rashes, and more. While women who identify as having BII attribute these issues to their implants, these symptoms are often subjective. Labs and exams conducted on women with BII tend to come back normal. As of today, there are no clinical studies to prove or disprove BII’s existence.

It’s important to know the latest information surrounding breast implant health. The safety and comfort of our Austin and Round Rock patients is always a priority.

If you ever have any breast augmentation or breast implant-related concerns, contact us online or by calling (512) 244-1445.

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