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FAQs on BIA-ALCL and Textured Breast Implants

As of late July, Allergan has officially recalled its BIOCELL breast implants from the U.S. market, following requests from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). You have likely seen extensive media coverage on these capsules, which are believed to be linked to a rare form of cancer. This news has been distressing for women who currently have or have had textured implants. In light of these recent events, the West County Plastic Surgeons of Washington University team hopes to bring awareness to patients in the St. Louis area on textured breast implants and a disease known as BIA-ALCL.

It had initially been theorized that the formation of bacteria could possibly be linked to an inflammatory reaction that causes the condition. The West County Plastic Surgeons of Washington University has conducted extensive research on the possible association between the microorganisms of breast implants/periprosthetic tissue and BIA-ALCL, but so far has not been able to confirm a clinical correlation. Also, the analysis has revealed no substantial differences between the types and abundance of bacteria found in BIA-ALCL patients and those without the disease. The continued research is leading to a deeper understanding of this form of cancer.

What is BIA-ALCL?

BIA-ALCL stands for breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a potentially life-threatening type of lymphoma that develops in scar tissue and fluid around an implant. Despite the common misconception, BIA-ALCL is actually a cancer of the immune system, as opposed to a form of breast cancer.

Do textured breast implants cause BIA-ALCL?

Having certain textured implants creates a higher risk for BIA-ALCL compared to smooth implants. However, the overall likelihood of developing this cancer is very low (it has affected 772 women as of May 2019). According to statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the risk ranges from between 1 in 2,207 to 1 in 86,029 for women with BIOCELL implants.

How do I know if I have BIA-ALCL?

BIA-ALCL is often detected years after breast surgery. Signs and symptoms to look out for include fever, night sweats, weight loss, backache, appetite loss, skin rashes, fluid collection, enlargement, hardening, and painful swelling.

Is there a cure for BIA-ALCL?

Provided that BIA-ALCL is diagnosed during early stages, it is easily treated and curable with an explant. The first stage of treatment may involve several tests and screenings, such as a PET/CT scan, or in some cases a needle biopsy on lymph nodes. Explant surgery usually effectively treats BIA-ALCL, but in severe cases chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be needed.

Should I have breast explant surgery?

Generally, if you aren’t experiencing symptoms of BIA-ALCL, the FDA does not recommend having an explant procedure, as this is major surgery and may predispose you to further complications.

Want to learn more about textured breast implants? St. Louis’ West County Plastic Surgeons of Washington University can guide you on BIA-ALCL detection and breast explant surgery. Call (314) 996-8800 today or submit a message online for more details.