In December 2016, the Therapeutic Goods Administration of Australia issued a safety report tackling the alleged association of a rare form of cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) to breast implants. Research and studies have been conducted about this association as early as 2011, and in a recent report made just January of this year, a total of 76 cases of breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) has been confirmed ad reported. Let us find out more about this breast implants cancer and what the risks are for patients in having this kind of rare disease.
Breast implants cancer: Is BIA-ALCL a form of breast cancer?
No. BIA-ALCL affects the lymphatic structures of the body, responsible for your immune system. The lymph nodes and vessels located at our breasts are the ones that are affected by the cancer cells, not the breast tissue itself.
Breast implants cancer: What are the symptoms of BIA-ALCL?
This types of ALCL typically presents itself as a palpable swelling or lump on the breast or armpit. This lump is not the usual lumps you can palpate a few days before or after having your menstrual period, so to be sure, it is advisable that as soon as you palpate a lump that feels more than the ordinary to go ahead and consult your doctor.
The swelling and lump associated with BIA-ALCL usually appear 3 to 14 years after the breast augmentation using breast implants. It is found out that accumulation of fluid around the capsule of the implant is the culprit for the lump.
Breast implants cancer: What are the risks of getting BIA-ALCL?
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as the TGA, reiterate that this rare form of breast implants cancer is serious but should not be blown out of proportion. Although it is difficult to really gauge the risk of getting breast implants cancer as of the moment due to its rarity, the ratio that they can provide ranges from 1 out of 1000 to 1 out of 10000. The average age of the implants inserted before the development of BIA-ALCL is eight years, but there are reports that some of the cancer patients developed breast implants cancer as early as one year after the surgery, or as late as 37 years after their breast augmentation procedure.
Breast implants cancer: How is it diagnosed?
Patients who present themselves as having lumps after breast augmentation are recommended to undergo breast ultrasounds to confirm the fluid collection in the breasts that caused the lumps. Once fluids are indeed present, aspiration of the fluid is done, and the specimen is analysed. Once it turns positive for cancer, additional tests like MRI scans and CT scans are performed to monitor its severity further.
Breast implants cancer: What should patients with breast implants do?
Plastic surgeons and oncologists reiterate that there is still no need to panic about BIA-ALCL. This type of cancer is very uncommon, and further studies are needed to come up with detailed protocols about the said cancer form.
If you are worried about your condition and of the potential risk that you may have BIA-ALCL, contact your plastic surgeon and discuss with him your concerns and symptoms so he can further educate and provide options on how to go about your condition.
For patients who underwent breast augmentation procedure, be vigilant and monitor your body for the noted signs and symptoms of BIA-ALCL. Once you noticed swelling or formation of lump, report this immediately to your plastic surgeon. And If you are thinking of undergoing breast augmentation surgery using breast implants, be mindful that breast implants cancer is a rare but potential complication of this procedure. Proper education and knowledge about the whole cosmetic procedure and its potential risks and complications are part of the comprehensive initial consultation that you will have with your plastic surgeon. Looking and feeling beautiful is everyone’s right, but staying safe and healthy should always be your priority.