As breast augmentation techniques advance, Dr. Marco Ellis regularly meets with patients who are concerned about the quality of the implants they received from another doctor. Sometimes they simply want a breast revision, and other times they are worried about the material of the implant and the associated risks for breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL.)
BIA-ALCL is a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that affects the immune system. (While it is a cancer that originates in the breast, BIA-ALCL is not the same thing as breast cancer.) Though developing BIA-ALCL is quite rare, it has been found in patients with breast implants, usually textured implants rather than the smoother varieties. The majority of cases have been found in women with Allergan’s BIOCELL implants, a now recalled product.
Symptoms of BIA-ALCL
Women who have had breast implants should be aware of what symptoms to look out for:
- Lump or fluid buildup showing up on the breast or in the armpit region
- Changing size of breasts, generally enlarging
- Breasts starting to appear asymmetrical
- Hardening of breast tissue
- Skin rash appearing on the breast
- Swollen lymph nodes
If you develop some of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor to screen for BIA-ALCL. A biopsy will be necessary to determine what is creating these symptoms.
Treatment for BIA-ALCL
The few patients with confirmed cases of BIA-ALCL need to undergo surgery to remove both the implant and the scar tissue that has formed around the implant from the breast. While these patients need to be monitored in the years to follow to ensure that cancer does not recur, most remain healthy thereafter thanks to this straightforward intervention.
In the rare case in which BIA-ALCL is not noticed early, the cancer may spread to other parts of the body, warranting the removal of cancerous lymph nodes and even perhaps chemotherapy.
Removing Implants out of Caution
Because BIA-ALCL occurs at such a low rate, the FDA does not currently recommend the removal of implants — even textured ones — if BIA-ALCL is not found in your body.
That said, you can always schedule a consultation with Dr. Ellis to discuss your concerns and see if there is an appropriate solution; your implants should build your confidence, not add to your worries. For example, Dr. Ellis has worked with patients who were already considering breast implant revision that decided BIA-ALCL was yet another reason to finally commit to the procedure.
Regardless of your decisions on this matter, you should remain alert for the aforementioned symptoms if you have higher-risk implants.
Discuss with Dr. Ellis
Chicago area patients who are concerned about their existing breast implants — especially those who have learned that they have BIA-ALCL — are encouraged to schedule an appointment and have a conversation with Dr. Ellis about their breasts and their future health.
Dr. Ellis has extensive experience removing breast implants, as well as replacing them with safer material depending on your wishes for your breasts moving forward. BIA-ALCL is an unfortunate setback, but that does not mean you cannot have breasts that are both attractive and safe in the years ahead.
Call Northwestern Plastic Surgery for an appointment at (312) 695-6022.