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What Is BIA-ALCL, and What Are Your Risks?

Woman Holding Breast Implants

I’ve noticed some patients who come in for breast augmentation consultations at our Las Vegas practice are asking about ALCL, a condition associated with textured breast implants that’s been in the news lately. With that in mind, I want to use this blog post to explain BIA-ALCL (Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma).

Facts About BIA-ALCL

To begin with, BIA-ALCL is not breast cancer, nor is it a cancer of the breast tissue. These are 2 of the biggest misconceptions people have about this illness. Instead, BIA-ALCL involves the scar tissue that naturally forms around a breast implant, which is called the capsule. In March 2018 the FDA issued a statement saying that BIA-ALCL is “an uncommon and highly treatable condition.”

Textured vs. Smooth Breast Implants

To date, the only definitive cases of BIA-ALCL occurred in patients with textured breast implants. The most common implants used in breast augmentation surgery are round, smooth breast implants, which are what I prefer to use for my patients. In contrast, anatomically shaped implants (sometimes called “teardrop-shaped”) are all textured to minimize the chances that the implant will rotate within the breast. Statistics kept by both the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) show that approximately 300,000 breast augmentation procedures and 150,000 breast reconstruction surgeries are performed annually in the United States. Approximately 12% of these patients receive textured implants.

What Is the Risk of Getting BIA-ALCL?

As the FDA noted, BIA-ALCL is rare. For example, in the U.S. only 230 unique cases have been reported as of the FDA’s March 2018 report. Of those, 56% of the patients underwent cosmetic breast augmentation and 44% had implants inserted as part of a post-mastectomy reconstruction. Even though the condition is uncommon, all plastic surgeons should inform patients considering breast augmentation about the associated risks. Our practice provides patients with all the information they want about BIA-ALCL.

What Are the Symptoms of BIA-ALCL?

BIA-ALCL typically develops years after getting breast implants (the average time is 8 years). Women usually first notice swelling of the breast, but some patients have noticed a lump in the breast or the lymph node in the armpit.

What Causes BIA-ALCL?

Researchers are still trying to learn with certainty what the causes the condition to develop, but a couple of theories have emerged. Those include bacterial contamination, long-term allergic inflammation and/or irritation from implant texturing, and genetic factors. Both the ASPS and ASAPS are helping to fund ongoing research to determine the cause and find a solution to the disease.

Again, I want to emphasize that the round, smooth implants I prefer at SurgiSpa™ have never been associated with a case of BIA-ALCL. I encourage you to look at the results enjoyed by some of my actual patients in our photo gallery.

If you’re considering breast augmentation and want to discuss breast implants at my Las Vegas practice, you can contact us using the online form to request a consultation or call us at (702) 734-4100 to schedule an appointment.

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