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Cause for Concern: Link Between Textured Breast Implants & Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL)

OVERVIEW

  • There is a link between BIA-ALCL and breast implants & expanders
  • Increased risk of BIA-ALCL in patients with textured implants
  • BIA-ALCL is not breast cancer but a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • BIA-ALCL usually exhibits symptoms 
  • BIA-ALCL can be diagnosed with fluid & blood testing & scans 
  • Early diagnosis & treatment is vital 

A link has been identified between the use of breast implants and expanders and BIA-ALCL.

Research has identified that patients with textured implants are at greater risk of developing BIA-ALCL than those with smooth implants. However, data suggest some BIA-ALCL cases have been caused by smooth implants.

Unfortunately, in Australia, it has been established that most implants utilised in breast surgery procedures have been textured implants.

Due to the increase in patients developing BIA-ALCL, health warnings have been issued to patients who have breast implants and may be at risk of developing BIA-ALCL.

In early 2021, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) was made aware of at least 76 cases of BIA-ALCL, this number is expected to grow as more women come forward with symptoms.

It appears a number of women who have been diagnosed with BIA-ALCL have had their implants for a number of years, with symptoms only developing more recently. 

WHAT IS BIA-ALCL?

Breast Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma is a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The BIA-ALCL is found in the scar tissue and fluid surrounding the implant product. The cancer is usually contained in this pocket, however, if left untreated the cancer can spread to other parts of the body.  

BIA-ALCL SYMPTOMS

BIA-ALCL symptoms include but are not limited to: -

  • Lumps forming in breasts
  • Swelling in breasts (usually one sided)
  • Pain in around implant
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes
  • Fluid around implant
  • Changes / loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Fever and night sweats

If patients with breast implants experience any of the above symptoms, they should report their symptoms immediately to a health care professional so investigation can be undertaken as soon as possible.

TREATMENT OF BIA-ALCL?

If patients have concerns and/or symptoms they should immediately contact their health care provider to discuss their concerns and/or symptoms.

If diagnosed early, most cases of BIA-ALCL can be treated with surgery to remove the implant and scar tissue. If detected and treated early, treatments such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy may be avoided.

For this reason, it is vital that if patients have concerns or are experiencing symptoms they consult a health care professional for immediate investigation.

SMOOTH OR TEXTURED IMPLANTS?

While it is said the majority of implants utilised in Australia in recent years have been textured, some patients may not be aware of their type of implant used in their procedure.

If patients wish to confirm the type of implant utilised they should contact the specialist/hospital they attended for the implant procedure.

The specialist/hospital will have retained the product stickers for the implant in their records which will specify the product manufacturer and whether the implant is smooth or textured.

WHAT TO DO NEXT

If a patient believed that they have textured implants or BIA-ALCL they should:-

  • Immediately consult their health professional for advice
  • Take note of and report all symptoms
  • Undergo the required investigations to diagnose BIA-ALCL as advised by their health care professional
  • Continue to monitor symptoms during investigation and report any changes immediately 

To read more about TGA recalls see our recent article: “TGA Recall Notices: What you need to do if you have received one” 

For further information consult the TGA website: https://www.tga.gov.au/

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute medical or treatment advice. Always speak to a registered health care professional for medical and treatment advice.

References:

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