Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma Overview
Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) is a type of non-Hodgkins lymphoma that develops in and around the tissue surrounding a breast implant. It’s known by the type of immune system cells it affects. While most types of lymphoma affect B-cells, BIA-ALCL affects T-cells.
Symptoms of BIA-ALCL typically include the accumulation of fluid around the implant, or redness and swelling that occurs without the presence of an infection. The scar tissue capsule around the implant may also contract. These symptoms are similar to those associated with other conditions, making BIA-ALCL tricky to diagnose.
In February 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent out a breast implant alert to medical professionals encompassing several specialties regarding BIA-ALCL. This condition is technically a non-Hodgkins lymphoma—or a cancer of the human immune system– rather than actual breast cancer.
The alert was intended to increase awareness about this disease, so that physicians, physicians assistants, and nursing staff were more inclined to take certain presented symptoms more seriously. There can be a number of side effects with breast implants, but BIA-ALCL often presents itself as inflammation, identified lumps, or new pain surrounding breast implants, regardless of how long the patient has had them.
According to the MD Anderson Center, the FDA still classifies BIA-ALCL as uncommon or rare, despite the alert. The drug and device oversight agency purportedly estimates that only one in 1,000 to 30,000 women with silicone or saline-based breast implants get diagnosed with the disease.
There is no identified increase in risk of diagnosis based upon the implant filling or type of surgical intervention—breast augmentation patients and breast reconstruction patients are both candidates for this concerning condition. There seems to be a slight increase in risk if the breast implant has a textured surface.
Breast implants can be placed in one of two ways in the human body: either under the chest muscle itself, or under the breast tissue. The implantation process is a plastic surgery procedure to cosmetically make the breasts appear larger, or to restore a mastectomy patient’s pre-surgical appearance. The two different situations are known as augmentation and reconstruction.
In the original February letter from the FDA to healthcare providers, it is noted that a capsulized amount of scar tissue develops around a breast implant over time. This separates it from the natural breast tissue. This capsule issue can exist with any kind of breast implant, textured or not, and it is in this capsule, or near it, that evidence of this rare lymphoma is found.
What is the Prognosis?
Treatment for breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma is often relatively easy compared to actual breast cancer. With this disease, the cancer is usually confined to the scar tissue capsule and removal of the implant with the capsule suffices. With rare exception, radiation and chemotherapy is not needed.
Prior to treatment, a complete run of diagnostic tests must be completed which include a PET, CT, or MRI scan to make sure the wayward cells have not spread systemically. If metastasis has happened, the treatment profile can and does change based upon review of a multidisciplinary medical team.
Confirming the presence of this lymphoma through the testing of fluids surrounding the breast implants is the most critical aspect of the process.
If you believe that you have developed BIA-ALCL or another issue post breast implant, a knowledgeable lawyer will be able to guide you as to whether you have a case and through the process of filing a lawsuit.
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