BIA-ALCL is a rare lymphoma that is associated with textured breast implants. Plastic surgeon Christopher Hess answers questions about the disease.
If you have breast implants or have been considering breast augmentation, it’s likely you’ve come across articles warning about a specific type of cancer that impacts those with breast implants. It’s called Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma or BIA-ALCL for short. While being aware of medical developments that may impact you is crucial, this news has inspired fear disproportionate to the number of cases.
Unfortunately, wading through all of the information and studies available can be a little overwhelming. This leaves many women unsure-particularly when fact and opinion coexist so frequently online. To help you understand BIA-ALCL, I’ve answered some of the most common questions I receive at my practice.
What is BIA-ALCL?
BIA-ALCL is not breast cancer. Rather, it is a form of lymphoma. It helps to first understand the nature of anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL).
ALCL is a very rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma — a cancer of the immune system that develops when lymph nodes have a build-up of abnormal T-cells. This is a type of white blood cell that scans for infections and cellular abnormalities in the body as part of the immune system.
Breast implant-associated ALCL (BIA-ALCL) is an even more uncommon form of ALCL. This develops specifically within the scar tissue capsule surrounding breast implants, not the lymph nodes.
How many people have BIA-ALCL?
Since 2010, there have been a total of 660 of BIA-ALCL, including 9 fatalities. Because the FDA relies on voluntary medical device reports from physicians and patients, it has been difficult to settle on an actual number of confirmed cases of BIA-ALCL. It is known that some of the same incidences have been reported multiple times.
As of the latest update in February 2019, the FDA estimates that there have been 457 unique cases of BIA-ALCL, following a comprehensive review of the submitted medical device…