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Diagnosing and Treating Breast Implant Associated Lymphoma

You may have seen news stories linking certain types of breast implants to a type of large cell lymphoma. Though rare, it is true certain implants are associated with a type of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma now called Breast Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). This condition is not breast cancer, but is instead a cancer of the lymphocytes. Most patients suffering from the condition find successful treatment through the removal of the implants and associated scar capsule. Dr. Paul Oxley can perform the procedure needed to remove these implants in Surrey, BC. If you would like more information, please contact us. We’ll be happy to provide any information you need.

What is BIA-ALCL?

BIA-ALCL is an uncommon and highly treatable type of lymphoma that can develop around breast implants. After the placement of breast implants, the body naturally forms a capsule or layer of scar tissue around the breast implant. BIA-ALCL occurs when anaplastic large cell lymphoma cells grow on the inside of the implant capsule. Women with BIA-ALCL have been diagnosed as quickly as one month after implant placement or as long as 27 years after implant placement. However, the average lag time between insertion and diagnosis is 9.2 years.

What Causes BIA-ALCL?

While the exact cause of BIA-ALCL is still uncertain, it appears the surface texture of implants is a major factor in causing the condition. The filling of implant does not matter, as both silicone gel and saline implants have been reported in cases of BIA-ALCL. Rather, the texture seems to be causing issues, as most cases have occurred in those patients with macro-textured implants. Nearly all of the 27 recognized cases of BIA-ALCL in Canada are in patients with a specific type of macro-textured implants made by Allergan. Health Canada and the U.S. FDA have since recalled all Allergan Biocell macro-textured devices not already inserted.

What Are the Symptoms of BIA-ALCL?

The first sign of BIA-ALCL is a delayed seroma, or fluid collection around the implant. By delayed, we mean the seroma develops later, and not in relation to the surgery itself. A small collection of fluid is normal. However, in cases of BIA-ALCL, the amount of fluid will be larger, usually about 100mL or more. Some other patients also develop a mass, skin rash, fever and night sweats, or swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy). It’s important to note that BIA-ALCL is very rare, with only 573 cases confirmed worldwide.

What Are the Treatment Options for BIA-ALCL?

If you’re suffering from any of the symptoms associated with BIA-ALCL, it’s important for you to visit a doctor immediately. They’ll be able to determine if BIA-ALCL is the cause of your symptoms. If diagnosed, you will need to undergo a surgery to remove both the implant and the normal scar tissue the body has formed around the implant. This procedure should be completed in both breasts. The majority of patients can be cured through the removal of the implants and capsule. In rare cases where patients have developed a mass, further surgery may be required as well as radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

What Should I Do If I Want My Allegan Implants Removed Even Though I Haven’t Developed BIA-ALCL?

If you had Allergan Biocell macro-textured implants placed you may be wondering what your options are. You can either leave the implants in place or undergo a procedure to remove them. Since the occurrence of BIA-ALCL is so low, no governing body worldwide has recommended the implants be removed in the absence of clinical evidence of BIA-ALCL. However, we understand some patients may choose to do so as a precaution. The office of Dr. Paul Oxley can provide you with additional information on surgery options available should you choose to have your implants removed. We can discuss whether you would like the implants removed with nothing to replace them as well as options for breast reconstruction. To learn more about procedures to treat or prevent breast implant lymphoma in Surrey, BC patients, we invite you to schedule a consultation today.

Please be aware that if you choose to leave your macro-textured implants in place, you should keep an eye out for the common symptoms listed on this page. You should also visit your doctor yearly for follow-up appointments. Mammograms do not diagnose BIA-ALCL.

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