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Women choose to get breast implants either for breast reconstruction after mastectomy or for cosmetic reasons. Recently, there’s been a good deal of news coverage about a connection between breast implants and cancer. This relates to a report that the FDA has released regarding women with breast implants developing a type of cancer called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma, or BIA-ALCL.

BIA-ALCL is not breast cancer. It’s a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is a cancer of the immune system. In most cases, BIA-ALCL is found in the implant scar tissue or in the fluid near the implant.

The FDA first identified an association between breast implants and anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) in 2011, but at the time there were so few cases that it was difficult to determine exact risk factors. The FDA now has more than 400 reports about women who developed ALCL after having a breast implant.

While research is ongoing, data now suggests that BIA-ALCL occurs more frequently with breast implants that have textured surfaces rather than those with smooth surfaces. The estimated lifetime risk of developing BIA-ALCL from a textured implant varies widely, from one in 4,000 to one in 30,000. Researchers have not yet determined whether the type of implant—silicone or saline—affects the risk of developing BIA-ALCL.

When To Be Concerned

While any development of cancer is concerning, the likelihood of developing BIA-ALCL is very low. The report is causing some women to wonder if they should have their implants removed as a precaution, but implant removal isn’t recommended unless there are symptoms or other abnormalities. Instead, patients should consult with their surgeon if they experience the following symptoms, especially if it’s been a year or more since the implant surgery:

  • Persistent swelling or enlargement
  • Spontaneous Fluid Collection
  • Asymmetry of the augmented breasts
  • Contraction or change in breast shape
  • A lump or lumps under the skin of the augmented breast
  • Redness of the breast not due to an infection

Treatment involves surgical removal of the implants and the cancer. When caught early, BIA-ALCL is usually curable.

If you have breast implants or if you’re considering reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy, the findings aren’t a call to change your treatment plan or to have your implants removed. Maintain routine checkups and report any of the symptoms listed above promptly.

If you’re considering breast implants or are concerned about implants you already have, feel free to consult with me. I have an office at Tennova Turkey Creek in West Knoxville and an office adjacent to Tennova North Knoxville Medical Center just off of Emory Road in Powell.

My extensive research and dedication to continual learning have distinguished me as a leader in the field of specialized breast cancer oncology. To learn more about my compassionate surgical care approach, visit www.aaronmd.com or call (865) 692-1610.