The Truth About BIA-ALCL

There has been a lot of recent media attention surrounding the rare form of cancer called Breast Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). If you have breast implants or are considering undergoing breast implant surgery, you’re probably wondering if it’s something you need to be concerned about. Keep reading to find out the facts that you need to know about BIA-ALCL.
What is BIA-ALCL
BIA-ALCL is a rare type of lymphatic cancer that is associated with breast implants. It is important to not confuse BIA-ALCL with breast cancer, as it is in fact a rare form of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It involves the swelling of the breast due to an accumulation of fluid, or more rarely presents as a lump, and typically appears between 3-14 years after surgery. It has not been seen with smooth implants but has with all other implant surfaces.
The risk is low but know the risk
The risk of developing this type of cancer is low, with diagnosed cases being present in less than 1 to 1000 patients. This means that 99.9% of patients that have breast implants will never have ALCL. To put this in perspective, the risk for any Australian woman, with or without implants, of developing breast cancer in her lifetime is 1 in 8. Most patients who do develop ALCL, have a mild, non-invasive version which is completely cured by removing the implant and its capsule. Invasive disease is extremely rare and is also treatable with surgery and sometimes chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The risk of death from BIA-ALCL is estimated as less than 1 in 1 million.
What actions should you be taking?
If you are not experiencing swelling or lumps in your breasts then the advice is to do nothing, except continue to monitor and perform regular checks on your breasts. There is no need to get your implants removed nor do you need regular ultrasound scans. Mammograms should be performed as usual. If you are experiencing swelling or changes to your breasts, you should contact your GP or your breast implant surgeon.
To find out more about BIA-ALCL watch Dr Daniel Fleming’s recent discussion on Victoria Derbyshire here. If you are thinking about breast implant surgery, phone us on 1800 682 220 or make an online enquiry here.
Dr Daniel Fleming is one of Australia’s most experienced breast implant surgeons. He is the Chairman of the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery’s BIA-ALCL Safety Committee and a member of the government’s TGA Expert Advisory Panel. You can access the TGA’s advice to patients here.