BIA-ALCL, or Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma, is a rare type of cancer that can develop in the scar tissue surrounding breast implants. Although it is not breast cancer, BIA-ALCL has been linked to certain types of breast implant and can be a cause for concern for patients who have undergone breast augmentation or reconstruction.
If you are experiencing symptoms such as swelling, pain, or lumps around your breast implants, it is important to schedule a consultation with a specialist immediately. These are some of the signs of BIA-ALCL, although they can vary significantly from patient to patient.
As a board-certified plastic surgeon, and a leading specialist at Northwestern Medicine, Dr. Michael Howard understands the importance of staying up-to-date on the latest research and advancements in the field of plastic surgery, particularly in regards to health concerns such as BIA-ALCL. At Michael Howard Plastic Surgery, we prioritize the health and well-being of our patients above all else. If you are worried about the effects of a prior breast augmentation, BIA-ALCL or breast implant safety, don’t hesitate to call us at (224) 271-4250 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Howard at our Lake Forest, Chicago, or Glenview office.
- 1 About BIA-ALCL
- 2 At-Risk Populations
- 3 Choosing the Right Surgeon
- 4 Personal Consultation
- 5 Breast Implant Removal
- 6 Preparing for Surgery
- 7 Recovery Process
- 8 Cost of Breast Reconstruction in Chicago
- 9 FAQ
- 10 References
Breast implants have become a popular choice among women for both aesthetic and reconstructive purposes. However, recent research has shown that breast implants can lead to an uncommon cancer known as BIA-ALCL.
If It’s Not Breast Cancer, What Is It?
BIA-ALCL is a type of T-cell lymphoma. It typically develops in the scar tissue and fluid surrounding an implant, rather than in the breast tissue itself. The FDA has issued a warning about the link between breast implants and BIA-ALCL, and ongoing research and clinical trials are being conducted to better understand the condition and its treatment. Although the exact cause of this cancer is unknown, research suggests that it may be linked to certain types of textured breast implants.
Symptoms of BIA-ALCL
Common symptoms of BIA-ALCL include: (1)
- Fluid Collection (Seroma)
- Abrupt Swelling
- Breast Asymmetry
Less common symptoms of BIA-ALCL include: (1)
- Capsular Contracture
- Swollen Lymph Nodes
How Rare is BIA-ALCL?
It is important to note that BIA-ALCL is a rare condition and the risk of developing it is low. In fact, research data indicates that it occurs in 1 in 30,000 women with textured implants. (2) However, it is crucial for patients to be aware of the symptoms and seek medical attention if they experience any changes in their breasts after receiving breast implants. In addition to the risk of BIA-ALCL, breast implants can also lead to complications such as implant rupture, seroma, capsular contracture, and breast implant illness. These complications can cause discomfort, pain, and affect the appearance of the breast.
Although BIA-ALCL is rare, certain patient populations are at a greater risk of developing the disease. (3)
- Women with textured implants
- Women with a history of textured implants
- Women who have had their implants for 6 years or longer.
Choosing the Right Surgeon
To minimize the risk of BIA-ALCL and other complications, it is important to choose an experienced plastic surgeon who uses FDA-approved breast implants. Patients should also undergo routine mammograms and ultrasounds to monitor for changes in their breast tissue. If there are any concerns, further diagnostics may be recommended. (4)
If you receive a BIA-ALCL diagnosis, treatment typically involves surgery to remove the affected implant and surrounding tissue, as well as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. The patient will work closely with an oncologist and other members of their treatment team to determine the best course of action.
Dr. Howard understands that undergoing any surgical procedure can be nerve-wracking, and he strives to make his patients feel comfortable and informed throughout the entire process. With his expertise and commitment to patient safety, you can feel confident in choosing him for your breast augmentation and reconstruction needs.
At Michael Howard Plastic Surgery, we prioritize the safety and well-being of our patients. If you are concerned about BIA-ALCL, Dr. Howard can provide you with a personal consultation to discuss your options.
During your consultation, Dr. Howard will review your medical history and assess any symptoms or concerns that you may have. He will also examine your breast implants to better understand your symptoms. If necessary, he may recommend additional testing or imaging to further evaluate your condition. Diagnostic tests such as mammograms, ultrasounds, biopsies, PET scans, and MRIs may be used to detect BIA-ALCL. (3) If a diagnosis is confirmed, treatment options may include implant removal, breast tissue expander removal, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery to remove affected lymph nodes.
If it is determined that your breast implants are affected by BIA-ALCL, Dr. Howard will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan. This may include removal of the affected implants and surrounding tissue, as well as close monitoring for any signs of recurrence. While the diagnosis of BIA-ALCL can be concerning, rest assured that Dr. Howard is highly skilled in breast reconstruction. Our goal is to help our patients achieve optimal health and wellness, and we are committed to providing exceptional care throughout the entire treatment process.
If you are concerned about BIA-ALCL or would like to learn more about breast implant safety, contact our office in Lake Forest, Illinois at (224) 271-4250 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Howard.
Breast Implant Removal
Dr. Howard specializes in breast implant removal after BIA-ALCL diagnosis, as well as other conditions related to breast implants such as implant rupture, capsular contracture, implant illness, and more. The procedure involves removing the entire implant, including the surrounding capsule of scar tissue. The implant and capsule are then sent for pathology testing to determine if BIA-ALCL is present. If necessary, additional treatment may be needed.
For those who wish to undergo breast reconstruction, options include using tissue from other parts of the body or placing new implants. In some cases, a mastectomy may also be necessary.
DIEP Flap Reconstruction Specialist
Dr. Michael Howard is a board-certified plastic surgeon with extensive experience in the DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction technique. This is a surgical procedure that uses tissue from the lower abdomen to reconstruct the breast(s) after a mastectomy. It is considered one of the most advanced techniques for breast reconstruction because it preserves abdominal muscles, resulting in less postoperative pain and a quicker recovery time than other procedures.
Preparing for Surgery
Before your surgery, Dr. Howard will provide you with detailed preoperative instructions. It is important to follow these carefully to ensure a smooth procedure and a speedy recovery. Some steps you may need to take include:
- Discontinuing any blood thinners, supplements, or medications as instructed by Dr. Howard
- Stopping all nicotine use in the weeks leading up to your surgery and throughout your recovery
- Filling prescriptions for pain medication and antibiotics before your procedure
- Arranging transportation home after surgery, as well as someone to stay with you for the first 24 hours if general anesthesia will be used.
- Taking time off work and social commitments to allow for adequate rest and recovery
Dr. Howard and his team will be available to answer any questions you may have before or after your procedure. Your safety and comfort are their top priorities, and they will do everything possible to ensure a successful outcome.
After undergoing treatment for BIA-ALCL, it is important to follow all post-operative instructions provided by your surgical team. The recovery process may vary based on the extent of treatment required and the individual patient’s healing process. Some swelling, bruising, and discomfort are to be expected, but can easily be managed with prescribed pain medication. We recommend avoiding strenuous activities for at least 4-6 weeks following treatment to ensure proper healing.
Regular follow-up appointments will be scheduled to monitor your progress and ensure that you are healing properly. It is important to attend these appointments and report any unusual symptoms or concerns to Dr. Howard.
Read Dr. Howard’s blog for more information about breast reconstruction recovery.
Cost of Breast Reconstruction in Chicago
The cost of breast implant removal and breast reconstruction following a BIA-ALCL diagnosis will vary depending on the extent of the surgery and any additional procedures required to ensure that you achieve the best possible results.
If you have been diagnosed with BIA-ALCL and are considering breast implant removal, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Howard today. Our team is available to answer any questions you may have about the procedure or the cost, and we will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan that meets your unique needs. Contact us at (224) 271-4250 to schedule your appointment.
No, not all breast implants are linked to BIA-ALCL. The majority of cases involve textured breast implants rather than smooth ones.
Should I remove my breast implants if I’m worried about BIA-ALCL?
If you’re concerned about BIA-ALCL, it’s important to talk to your plastic surgeon. They can evaluate your individual situation and provide recommendations based on your personal risk factors. In some cases, removal of the implant may be recommended, while in others, close monitoring may be sufficient.
Can BIA-ALCL be treated?
Yes, BIA-ALCL can be treated. Treatment typically involves removal of the affected implant and surrounding scar tissue. In some cases, radiation therapy or chemotherapy may also be necessary.
Is there anything I can do to reduce my risk of developing BIA-ALCL?
While there’s no guaranteed way to prevent BIA-ALCL, choosing a qualified and experienced plastic surgeon, and following all pre and post-operative instructions carefully can help minimize your risk. Additionally, regular breast self-exams and routine mammograms can help detect any potential issues early on.
- McKernan C. Treating breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma. JAAPA. 2021;34(4):47-51. doi:https://doi.org/10.1097/01.JAA.0000735780.35691.e5
- Bewtra C, Gharde P. Current Understanding of Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma. Cureus. Published online October 20, 2022. doi:https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.30516
- Yoo, H., Park, J.-U., & Chang, H. (2022). Comprehensive Evaluation of the Current Knowledge on Breast Implant Associated-Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma. Archives of Plastic Surgery, 49(02), 141–149. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0042-1744422
- Jaffe, E. S., Ashar, B. S., Clemens, M. W., Feldman, A. L., Gaulard, P., Miranda, R. N., Sohani, A. R., Stenzel, T., & Yoon, S. W. (2020). Best Practices Guideline for the Pathologic Diagnosis of Breast Implant–Associated Anaplastic Large-Cell Lymphoma. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 38(10), 1102–1111. https://doi.org/10.1200/JCO.19.02778