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Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BI-ALCL): What You Should Know

Post updated on 12/19/2018

Breast augmentation surgery is still the most popular cosmetic surgery procedure in the world. The team at Jefferson Plastic Surgery performs many breast augmentation procedures each year, and helps patients throughout the greater Philadelphia, PA area achieve excellent results.

While the majority of breast augmentation procedures are completed without incident, medical research over the last few years has found that breast augmentation can lead to a rare but treatable form of cancer known as breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma, or BIA-ALCL. Let's cover the basics of this condition, its symptoms and causes, and what patients need to know.

About Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL)

Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma is a rare spectrum of disorders affecting patients who get breast implants. It is important to note that BIA-ALCL is not cancer of the breast tissue itself. The condition can lead to the benign accumulation of fluid around the breast implants (a seroma) or to a rare type of lymphoma.

Research has confirmed 414 cases of BIA-ALCL since the disease was first reported almost 20 years ago. A total of 16 breast augmentation patients have died from BIA-ALCL during this timeframe.

Signs and Symptoms of BIA-ALCL

The most common signs and symptoms of BIA-ALCL include:

  • Swelling of the breast
  • A lump of the breast
  • Excessive firmness/hardness of the breast
  • Breast pain

When Do Symptoms Typically Appear?

Symptoms can appear as soon as 2 years after getting breast implants or as late as 28 years after surgery. On average, symptoms of BIA-ALCL first appear eight years after breast augmentation surgery.

Given the span of time when symptoms could develop, it’s always a good idea to be mindful of any abnormal swelling or growths affecting the breasts.

Is BIA-ALCL More Common with Certain Kinds of Implants?

Only the texture of the breast implant affects the risk for BIA-ALCL. The composition of the implant (i.e., silicone or saline) does not affect BIA-ALCL risk.

How Common Is BIA-ALCL?

According to current research, BIA-ALCL is NOT a risk for women with smooth breast implants. Women with textured breast implants face varying degrees of risk based on the amount of texture their implants have.

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery has the following grade system to determine BIA-ALCL risk. The higher the grade, the more textured the implant:

  • Grade 1 (Smooth Implants) - Zero risk of BIA-ALCL
  • Grade 2 (e.g. Microtexture, Siltex) – 1 in 82,000
  • Grade 3 (e.g. Macrotexture, Biocell) – 1 in 3,200
  • Grade 4 (e.g. Polyurethane) – 1 in 2,800

Can BIA-ALCL Be Cured or Treated?

Yes. When BIA-ALCL is caught early, it can be readily treated and cured. This is why noting any swelling, growths, or lumps is so important for breast augmentation patients.

Contact Jefferson Plastic Surgery

For more information about breast implants and whether or not they are an ideal option for you and your needs, we encourage you to contact an experienced cosmetic surgeon today. We will provide you with all the answers you need to make a smart decision about your aesthetic goals.

Get the updated list of Patient FAQ's for Breast Implant-Associated ALCL (BIA-ALCL) from The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery

Questions? Email us today.
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Jefferson Plastic Surgery is located on the corner of 9th and Walnut streets in Center City, Philadelphia on the 15th floor of the Wills Eye Hospital Building.

Jefferson Plastic Surgery
840 Walnut Street - 15th Floor
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107
Phone: (215) 625-6630
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