Breast Implants and Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (ALCL)

Yesterday, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) came out with a report on the subject of breast implants and anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Reports of a possible link between the two subjects surfaced in 2011, and since that time, the FDA has determined that there is sufficient evidence to say breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) can occur as a rare T-cell lymphoma that can develop following breast implants.

ALCL is a very rare form of cancer associated with implants, including breast implants. There have been 359 reported cases worldwide to date associated with breast implants, out of over 15 million known women with breast implants worldwide. Of the 359 known cases of ALCL associated with breast implants, more than 200 cases are associated with textured surface implants; in the rest of the cases, the type of implant is unknown, although it is known that ALCL has been recorded in both silicone gel and saline implants.

ALCL commonly presents as sudden swelling of the breast–usually only one side–and typically occurs many years after surgery. If you notice symptoms that might indicate ALCL, call your plastic surgeon and schedule an appointment. Plastic surgeons do have a treatment/evaluation protocol to use in examination of these patients. If a patient is found to have ALCL associated with a breast implant, removal of the implant and the wall around the implant is usually curative. Co-ordinating with an oncologist (breast cancer doctor) is important. If caught early, ALCL is very curable.

If you are a patient with implants, do not panic, since the numbers of breast implant associated ALCL are very, very small. The FDA is not recommending removal. If you have no symptoms, we still recommend regular follow up appointments with your plastic surgeon.

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