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News & Press: For Patients

Recent News Concerning Cancer and Breast Implants

Wednesday, May 17, 2017  
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There has been recent news coverage surrounding a rare type of cancer associated with breast implants, known as Breast Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), including a New York Times piece about some of the patients affected.

The cancer is a type of lymphoma affecting a very small percentage of the 10 million people with breast implants worldwide, and positive outcomes are seen when it is caught early. In about 85% of cases, surgery to remove the implants and surrounding scar tissue has been successful in treating the disease, though chemotherapy may be necessary if the lymphoma has spread.

In March, the FDA linked nine deaths to breast implants out of 359 reports of implant-related lymphoma, and more instances may be noted as medical professionals become aware of the link between the implants and lymphoma. Most cases of cancer developed between 2 and 28 years after surgery, 

The exact cause of the lymphoma is unknown, though it is much more common in patients with rough-textured implants rather than smooth. It is possible that the rough surface of the implants provides more surface area for bacteria and irritation. The highest number of cases have been associated with Allergan implants, perhaps due to the way they are manufactured. Allergan has provided patients with resources, including a brochure that addresses what is currently known about BIA-ALCL, to learn more about breast implant safety. The company is currently conducting research on all of their breast implants, surface textures and the body's response to the implants.

Due to the rarity of BIA-ALCL, the FDA has not recommended that patients with breast implants change their follow-up care after surgery, and it does not recommend removal of implants if patients are not experiencing any problems with them. Patients should follow their doctor's standard medical recommendations and monitor their implants for any changes like lumps or swelling. The FDA is encouraging doctors to report all confirmed cases of BIA-ALCL so that more research can be done about the condition.

Patient safety is the top concern of The American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery and our members. Patients are encouraged to discuss the risks and benefits of each procedure with their healthcare providers beforehand.

More information on breast implant safety can be found on the FDA website.