New reports suggest an increase in breast implant removal procedures to stem the risk of developing breast implant-related cancer.

While it remains a relatively rare condition, the risks of Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) is leading more and more breast augmentation patients to have their breast implants removed.

What is BIA-ALCL?

As the Australian Therapeutic Goods Association notes, BIA-ALCL is a rare form of cancer associated with the immune system and its response to textured implants. It is not breast cancer, but instead a form of cancer that grows in the fluid and scar tissue which develops around the implant itself. Although only a small number of total breast implant cases are known to have resulted in BIA-ALCL, the vast majority of these have been linked to textured implants specifically.

Cases of BIA-ALCL have been known to occur as soon as one year after breast augmentation surgery, and as late as almost 40 years after the initial operation. However, the average diagnosis time for patients with BIA-ALCL is within 8 years.

BIA-ALCL and breast implant removal

A recent ABC news report highlighted that although still a rare condition, increasing numbers of women with breast implants are now seeking to have their implants removed. In particular, women who’ve undergone breast reconstruction following mastectomies are seemingly at greater risk.

The report found that of the 107 confirmed cases of BIA-ALCL in Australia, 21 of these were from women who’d had breast reconstructions as a consequence of breast cancer.

According to the report, women who’ve undergone reconstructions are at heightened risks due to the fact that textured implants are preferred for this type of treatment. As a result, these patients are at a greater risk.

Subsequently, although the risk of developing the form of cancer is still rare (currently estimated between 1 in 1,000 and 1 in 10,000) there are a growing number of women undergoing surgery to remove their breast implants out of precaution.

Proposed ban on textured implants

Under recent pressure from the TGA and US counterpart FDA as well as European regulatory groups, Allergen, the largest producer of textured implants, ordered a worldwide recall of their products. However, they are yet to be banned in Australia.

According to the TGA, “No decision has been made to suspend or cancel the relevant products at this time”.

Who can get BIA-ALCL?

According to the TGA, all Australian cases of BIA-ALCL involve patients who have had textured breast implants as opposed to smooth implants. So far, there is little evidence to suggest that implant-associated cancer is due to either the contents (i.e. saline or silicone) or the shape of the implant used.

How is BIA-ALCL treated?

In most cases, the disease is caught at an early stage, with cancerous cells discovered only in the fluid surrounding the breast implant. The most common sign of BIA-ALCL is swelling of a breast due to increased fluids. To treat the condition, the breast implants are removed, as well as the surrounding capsule. As a precaution, both breast implants are removed, even in the cases where cancer cells are only present in one breast. However, if cancer has spread, further specialist treatment will most likely be required.

The difference between BIA-ALCL and Breast Implant Illness

In recent years, other breast implant-related illnesses have gained significant attention. However, Breast Implant Illness and BIA-ALCL are two distinct conditions. Where BIA-ALCL is a specific form of cancer linked to textured implants, Breast Implant Illness refers to a wide range of negative symptoms patients attribute to their breast implants. These include symptoms such as chronic chest pain, sleep problems, memory loss, and headaches among others.

En Bloc Breast Implant Removal at Gold Coast Plastic Surgery

At Gold Coast Plastic Surgery, we offer a range of breast implant removal and replacement options. In particular, for complete breast implant removal, we offer removal using the En Bloc Technique. This technique is used by Dr Mark Doyle to remove both the implant and surrounding scar tissue (capsule) in one piece. By removing the implant and capsule together, it reduces the risk of any fluid leaking into the surrounding tissue.

To learn more about breast implant removal, or if you have concerns about your breast implants, don’t hesitate to contact us at Gold Coast Plastic Surgery.