Recently in the media, there has been some discussion about breast implants and the potential risk of developing BIA ALCL.  Quite understandably, women who have had breast implants are wanting to understand what BIA ALCL is and are they at risk.

What is BIA ALCL?

BIA ALCL is Breast Implant Associated-Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma.   It is a rare cancer and is a cancer of the lymphatic cells.  It is a form of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

BIA ALCL occurs in women who have had implants for both cosmetic and reconstructive indications and can take an average of 7-10 years after implant insertion before it develops

It is not breast cancer, which forms from cells in the breast, but instead a cancer that grows in the fluid and scar tissue that forms around a breast implant.

A recent review by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has found between one in 2,500 and one in 25,000 people with breast implants are diagnosed with the condition in Australia; based on confirmed cases of BIA-ALCL where only one brand of implant had been used

The risk of developing BIA-ALCL increases with increasing texturing of the implant and to this date, implants which have a smooth surfaced, have not been associated with BIA-ALCL.

What are the symptoms of BIA ALCL?

The most common presentation is a swelling around the breast implant and in the space between the implant and breast implant capsule. In some cases, it may appear as a lump in the breast or armpit or unexplained breast enlargement or asymmetry.

As this is a rare disease, changes in your breast are unlikely to be breast implant associated cancer however, women who develop these symptoms should see their physician to be evaluated with a physical exam and further testing.

Your GP should send you for an ultrasound and if there is fluid, the radiographer will aspirate a sample of fluid, and this will be tested for the disease.

What is the treatment for BIA ALCL?

In about 80% of cases, the disease is detected in the early stage, with cancer cells found only in the fluid surrounding the implant. Most of these cases are cured by removal of the implant and surrounding capsule.

What should I do if I detect changes in my breasts?

All women should be doing monthly self-examination of their breasts. Mammograms should be undertaken for women over 40 to detect breast cancer.

It is important to note that a mammogram will check for breast cancer, but is not useful for detecting BIA-ALCL.

If you detect any changes or have concerns, please see your GP immediately to be evaluated.

How can I find out more about BIA ALCL?

You can learn more about BIA ALCL from the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons  – www.plasticsurgery.org.au

If you have any questions or concerns about BIA ALCL, please contact Dr Kennedy and he will be happy to discuss this with you.