In 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to patients and doctors across the country informing them that certain types of breast implants have been associated with a rare type of breast cancer. Every year, hundreds of thousands of women undergo breast augmentation surgery, meaning millions of women have been exposed to this increased cancer risk.
Breast implants can cause anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Patients with breast implant associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma – BIA-ALCL for short – require implant removal and/or removal of surrounding tissue and may require chemotherapy to treat the cancer.
For women considering breast implants, evaluating the cancer risk is important. Research has shown some types of breast implants are more likely to cause cancer than other types. Women seeking to reduce their cancer risk from breast implants should select non-textured implants. Although patients typically prefer textured implants, patient with textured implants have a 67.6 times greater risk of developing cancer.
Signs To Look For
For women who already have breast implants and are concerned about their cancer risk, it is important to know the signs of BIA-ALCL. Catching cancer in its early stages gives patients the best odds for recovery. BIA-ALCL typically develops 3-14 years after implantation and is often identified by these signs:
- Lumps – Women with breast implants need to be on the lookout for any unusual lumps in their breasts. It is important to note that lumps caused by BIA-ALCL can also occur in the armpit area.
- Swelling – BIA-ALCL occurs in an accumulation of fluid around the breasts. This fluid causes swelling of the breasts.
- Asymmetry – Women who begin to notice asymmetry in their breasts should immediately contact a doctor, as this could be a sign of BIA-ALCL
Unfortunately for patients, BIA-ALCL can also cause very generic symptoms – like fever, fatigue, night sweats, and weight loss – that are difficult to diagnose. However, with the help of scans and diagnostic tests, doctors can identify BIA-ALCL and offer treatment.