No matter who you are, access to reliable information goes hand in hand with early detection and saving lives. This is true whether you are a woman who has received breast implants for reconstructive or cosmetic purposes, a family member of a loved one with BIA-ALCL or a cancer survivor who hopes to spread awareness. From early symptoms and diagnosis to available treatment options, we are here to help you get the information and resources you deserve.
Breast Implant Cancer By the Numbers
In many cases, getting breast implants was a choice. However, getting cancer was not. Women are learning that breast implant cancer is not as rare as it was once thought to be due to a spike in incidence over the last several years. Prominent health organizations, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO), believe BIA-ALCL can develop several years after breast implant procedures.
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Who Is At Risk for Developing BIA-ALCL?
Though BIA-ALCL is rare, all women with breast implants share a slightly increased risk of developing the disease in the scar tissue (or “capsule”) that surrounds the implant. Women who have “textured” surface implants have a much higher ALCL incidence rate than women with “smooth” surface implants. The difference between these two implant types is that textured implants stick to the capsule while smooth-surfaced implants do not.
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What is Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma?
Known more simply as BIA-ALCL, breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma is a T-cell lymphoma that can occur after breast implants. Lymphoma forms in the infection-fighting cells of the body’s immune system.
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Breast Implant Cancer Symptoms
Symptoms for breast implant cancer, or BIA-ALCL, are similar to those of breast cancer. The most common symptom is fluid buildup near or around the implant, known as “seroma.” Often, breast-implant cancer symptoms will appear years after surgery. Other common symptoms include general problems with the implants such as:
- Change in appearance around the breasts
Because ALCL is a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, women should also pay close attention to any sudden immune-system deficiencies and/or any sudden bodily changes, such as hair loss or general fatigue.
Just as with any cancer, early detection is the key to a favorable outcome. That said, many instances of BIA-ALCL are treatable through the removal of the implant and its protective capsule. Medical experts say that in 89 percent of all BIA-ALCL cases, women are cancer-free after five years if the cancer is detected and treated early.
Experts recommend getting an annual breast wellness checkup with a physician. A “well-woman” exam by a gynecologist should also include a breast exam. If further tests are required, doctors might take a needle biopsy or drain an implant capsule of fluid. Imaging tests such as an ultrasound, PET-CT, MRI or mammography might also be used for ALCL detection.
Unlike other cancers, a majority of BIA-ALCL cases can be treated by removing the breast implant and its capsule if the cancer is detected early. More rarely, and in instances when ALCL has spread through the lymph nodes, doctors will recommend a patient undergo a chemotherapy or a radiotherapy regimen.
What Are Your Legal Options?
Cosmetic, augmentation, reconstruction—no matter what your reason(s) for getting breast implants, you never expected the implants to cause cancer. In many instances, your lack of knowledge about cancer associated with implants is due to breast implant manufacturing companies choosing not to include a warning about an increased risk of BIA-ALCL.
The manufacturers of saline- and silicone-filled breast implants had a duty to warn breast implant recipients of the potential health hazards associated with their products. Legal cases have been filed against breast-implant manufacturers for:
- Failure to warn doctors and consumers of health risks
- Failure to conduct adequate research and studies on potential risks
- Defectivity of the implant, leading to injury, illness or cancer
Breast Implant Cancer FAQ
If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with BIA-ALCL, you will have a lot of questions. Our FAQ page aims to answer the most commonly asked questions about the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of BIA-ALCL.
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