Old Breast Implants and Cancer Risks

There is a link between old breast implants and a cancer called breast implant-associated large cell lymphoma, or BIA-ALCL. BIA-ALCL develops in the scar tissue between the breasts and the implants. The longer the breast implants are in, the higher the risk of BIA-ALCL development. There are steps women can take to stay safe. 

The Link Between Old Breast Implants and Cancer

Breast implant-associated large cell lymphoma, or BIA-ALCL, is a cancer which develops in between the scar tissue inside the breast and the breast implant itself. BIA-ALCL is not technically considered a traditional breast cancer — it is medically defined as a cancer of the immune system. Doctors often recommend treating BIA-ALCL by removing the breast implants and related scar tissue. 

Women with older breast implants need to be aware of the risk of BIA-ALCL, as there are steps that they can take to stay safe. Women with breast implants should get regular medical checkups to determine if they are at particular risk for BIA-ALCL. When caught early, the cancer can often be beaten by treating the scar tissue and removing the implant. But in the rare instances when the cancer spreads to the lymph nodes, it can be fatal. 

Why Does It Take So Long for BIA-ALCL To Develop?

Most people who are diagnosed with BIA-ALCL have their cancer develop 8 to 10 years after breast implant surgery. Although the exact cause of BIA-ALCL is not known, it is believed that some breast implant material can cause lasting irritation inside the body and cause the immune system to overreact. 

Medical professionals are still doing research into what mechanisms cause BIA-ALCL and why. What researchers do know is that the cancer is exceedingly rare. Right now, there are about 10 million women worldwide with breast implants. But there are only about 10 women per year that get diagnosed with BIA-ALCL.  

What makes BIA-ALCL notable is that it is not actually a form of breast cancer. It develops in the scar tissue between the breasts and implants themselves before spreading to other parts of the body. If the cancer can be caught before it spreads throughout the body, the prognosis for recovery is generally good. 

Should I Get My Old Breast Implants Removed?

It is important to realize that the Food and Drug Administration notes that breast implants are not expected to last a lifetime. That means that for most women, they will need to remove or change their breast implants after a certain amount of years. Leaving in breast implants for too long could potentially increase BIA-ALCL risk.

You should talk to your doctor if you believe that you may be at risk for the development of BIA-ALCL. Some doctors recommend the removal of the implants if a patient is thought to be at risk. Other doctors recommend waiting until any BIA-ALCL cancer is found before removing the implants. The FDA actually does not recommend removal unless it is medically needed.

If you are worried about BIA-ALCL, talk to your doctor about your next course of action. Your doctor may recommend the removal of your breast implants, but getting a full medical evaluation is the best way to figure out the way forward. Your doctor may tell you that the best course of action is simply to wait and watch for any signs or symptoms of BIA-ALCL.

Symptoms of BIA-ALCL

If you display any of the symptoms of BIA-ALCL, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. BIA-ALCL is highly treatable, but it can be fatal if the disease spreads beyond the breasts and to the lymph nodes. Common symptoms of BIA-ALCL include:

  • Swelling in the breast or around the implant
  • Lumps
  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Changes in the size or shape of the breasts

Symptoms of BIA-ALCL generally present anywhere from 8 to 10 years after breast implant surgery. Because the symptoms are often confused with traditional forms of breast cancer, it is important to talk with a medical professional and get a full evaluation if any of these symptoms present. Let your doctor know that you have had breast implants so that they can determine if you are at risk for BIA-ALCL.

Learn More About Potential BIA-ALCL Risks 

If you have been diagnosed with BIA-ALCL or believe that you are at risk after a breast implant surgery, you can get help. Visit our website and we can provide you with a free case review. Our team can help you understand which breast implants pose a medical risk, and which medical and legal options are available to those affected.

You don’t have to go through this process on your own. Contact us for a free case review today.