Breast Implant-Associated Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) is a form of lymphoma that has been found to develop near breast implants. Current statistics indicate it forms more often in women with implants that have textured surfaces. Despite its placement in the breast, it is not a type of breast cancer. Rather, it’s a form of immune system cancer that forms in response to the implant. Current confirmed cases suggest that the lifetime risk of developing this cancer is 1:86,029 for women with textured implants.
Signs and Symptoms of BIA-ALCL
BIA-ALCL has been identified in women with implants containing either saline or silicone. Its appearance is equally likely in cases of cosmetic implants and those received during reconstruction following breast cancer. This condition will often appear between one and ten years following the original procedure when it occurs. Currently, there is no research showing that BIA-ALCL occurs with smooth implants, as all current cases appeared in those with textured implants.
The most frequently occurring symptoms associated with BIA-ALCL are:
- Breast enlargement
- Lumps in the armpit or breast
- Fluid collection
- Hardening of the breast
If you’re considering undergoing breast reconstruction using breast implants, it’s important to discuss the options with your surgeon. There are many benefits and drawbacks to any type of implant, but BIA-ALCL only appears with textured implants. During your consultation, your practitioner may suggest a certain fill, surface texture, and shape restore the natural look you desire after reconstruction. While the chance of developing BIA-ALCL with textured implants appears to be small, more study is needed.
Contact your physician if you’ve received textured breast implants and are experiencing fluid buildup, asymmetry, unexplained enlargement, or a lump in the armpit or breast. In rare cases, the condition may present as hardening of the breast or an overlying skin rash. Those who develop these symptoms should reach out to their physician to receive a physical exam and evaluation.
Treatment of BIA-ALCL begins with imaging to identify the presence of any disease and the degree to which it’s spread. Understanding the range of the condition is essential in deciding on a treatment approach. Patients who have been newly diagnosed will be sent for evaluation to an oncologist, who will stage the disease and work with you to plan treatment.
In cases where cancer only appears around the implant, surgery will be called for. This surgery will remove the implant and the scar capsule that surrounds it. If lumps in the armpit are present, the disease may have entered the lymphatic system. However, this may just be a benign case of enlarged lymph nodes. Different treatment approaches may be necessary in advanced cases.
Speak To Your Physician About Any Concerns
If you have concerns that you may be experiencing symptoms related to BIA-ALCL, reach out to your physician. They’ll be able to properly identify your symptoms and provide a confirmed diagnosis. They’ll direct you to the proper treatment as part of this diagnosis. Acting as soon as you notice symptoms is the best way to ensure successful treatment.