Currently, there is no known risk of developing breast cancer after breast implants. However, Allergan’s manufactured textured breast implants are linked to a rare cancer called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). Learn about BIA-ALCL and how to monitor for symptoms below.
Can You Get Breast Cancer After Breast Implants?
No. According to the breast cancer non-profit organization Susan G. Komen®, implants have not been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. That said, Allergan manufactured textured implants — among others — have been connected to BIA-ALCL.
“Although the reasons are unclear, the risk of BIA-ALCL is higher with textured breast implants than with smooth implants.”
– Susan G. Komen
BIA-ALCL is not breast cancer. It is a T-cell type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system. BIA-ALCL is highly treatable but if it is not detected before it spreads to other parts of the body, it can be deadly.
Breast Cancer vs. BIA-ALCL
Breast cancer develops in the breast tissue and is very common. In fact, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
BIA-ALCL is typically found in the scar tissue and fluid near the implant. Unlike breast cancer, BIA-ALCL is very rare, with less than 750 total cases identified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as of January 2020.
Overall, symptoms of BIA-ALCL and breast cancer are similar, but there are also some differences.
|BIA-ALCL Symptoms||Breast Cancer Symptoms|
|Persistent swelling or pain near the breast implant||Thickening or swelling of part of the breast|
|Lumps, masses, excess fluid, or thick scar tissue around the implant||New lump in the breast or armpit|
|Changes in breast size or shape||Redness, flaky skin, or dimpling in the nipple or breast area|
|Redness of the skin||Nipple discharge other than breast milk (including blood) and pulling in/pain of the nipple
The most common symptom that BIA-ALCL has formed after breast implants is fluid around the implant. It is in this fluid that BIA-ALCL first develops in most cases.
When does BIA-ALCL form?
According to Dr. Jay Agarwal, chief of plastic surgery at the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Hospital, the symptoms of BIA-ALCL typically take 8-10 years to develop after getting breast implants.
Some people may develop BIA-ALCL symptoms as early as two years and as late as almost 30 years after receiving implants.
Remember, though, that not everyone who receives breast implants will develop BIA-ALCL.
What is the prognosis of BIA-ALCL?
The prognosis for BIA-ALCL is generally good since it is considered to be highly treatable. As with most cancers, the key is in early detection.
BIA-ALCL is usually treated successfully with surgery to remove the implant and surrounding scar tissue. Some patients also receive treatment with chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the 5-year survival rate of BIA-ALCL is 89%. Patients who were diagnosed with Stage 1 BIA-ALCL almost always survive.
However, this cancer is harder to treat — and might become incurable — if it spreads. Sadly, in these cases, BIA-ALCL can be fatal. As of January 2020, the FDA reported 36 deaths due to BIA-ALCL.
Should I Consider Removal To Avoid Breast Cancer After Implants?
The FDA does not recommend implant removal for patients who are not showing symptoms of breast cancer after breast implants. This is because the risks involved with surgery are greater than the risk of developing cancer after implants.
Patients should, however, watch for BIA-ALCL symptoms like:
- Presence of a mass or pain near the implant
- Fatigue, memory loss, or brain fog
- Joint pain
If any of these symptoms develop, patients should talk with their health care provider immediately for further evaluation. This may include diagnostic imaging and fluid or tissue assessment.
Brands Linked With Cancer After Breast Implants
As part of an FDA request, Allergan recalled its manufactured implants in July of 2019. The recall came after reports of 573 cases of BIA-ALCL, 481 of which were reported to involve Allergan breast implants.
It was also reported that over three dozen other countries had banned these implants due to the risk of BIA-ALCL.
If you are concerned about developing BIA-ALCL or breast cancer after breast implants, talk to your health care providers. From there, you and your medical team can develop a plan to minimize your risks of cancer.
Monitoring for Breast Cancer and BIA-ALCL After Breast Implants
Unfortunately, not only is it possible to develop breast cancer after breast implants, but it is also possible to develop cancer because of your implants.
Although breast cancer after breast implants is not likely, there is a risk of developing BIA-ALCL. This is why it’s important to get screened regularly for cancer, check for any changes in breast implants, and speak with your doctor if you are concerned.
Early detection of BIA-ALCL or a recurrence of breast cancer may mean more treatment options will be available.
If you have been diagnosed with BIA-ALCL or believe that you are at risk after a breast implant surgery, you can get help.
While it won’t change the traumatic experience of being diagnosed with BIA-ALCL, you might be able to take legal action against the makers of your implants. This could help compensate for pain, suffering, and medical expenses.
Don’t go through this process alone. Learn if you can take action today with a free case review.