Can Breast Implants Cause Cancer?

Can Breast Implants Cause Cancer?

Posted on October 14, 2019 by Dr. Susan MacLennan

You may have heard recent media reports about textured breast implants and an uncommon form of cancer called anaplastic large-cell lymphoma. BIA-ALCL is not a breast cancer, but rather a rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that can develop around breast implants.

ALCL is found in scar tissue or fluid around the implant, not in the breast tissue itself.

These findings have many women with breast implants or who are considering breast augmentation concerned about an increased risk of cancer. Developing ALCL is very rare. It’s estimated that only one in between 2,000 and 86,000 women with textured breast implants will develop BIA-ALCL.

Researchers believe that the increased surface area due to texturing on the surface of some breast implants is responsible for the risk of developing ALCL. For this reason, Allergan issued a voluntary withdrawal of its textured implants from the market in July 2019. This specific type of implant represents less than 5% of all implants used in the United States and Dr. MacLennan has not typically used this type of implant in her practice. No cases of BIA-ALCL have been found in women who have had only smooth surface implants.

Detection and treatment of BIA-ALCL

While BIA-ALCL is rare, it remains important to understand the symptoms and prevention techniques for the disease.

As you consider breast implants, be sure to discuss your family health history and any concerns you may have with Dr. MacLennan. This will allow you to make an informed, healthy decision about the type of implants you will receive. At present, we use only smooth surface implants from all 3 implant companies available in the USA (Mentor, Allergan and Sientra).

After your breast augmentation or reconstruction, remember to have routine cancer screenings according to American Cancer Society guidelines, as well as checkups with Dr. MacLennan. In reported cases, the most common BIA-ALCL symptom is a painless swelling of the breasts years after the surgery due to the development of fluid around the implant. If you notice a significant change in size after you have already healed from the surgery, schedule a checkup for an exam with Dr. MacLennan.

Treatment for BIA-ALCL is highly effective and most commonly involves the removal of the implant and scar capsule. Over 90 percent of patients are disease-free at three years following their treatment. In more advanced cases, additional treatment with a medication called brentuximab has been effective.

Questions about breast implant risks?

Breast augmentation is the most common form of cosmetic surgery, and breast implants are very safe. Before you decide to have a breast augmentation, it’s important to be completely informed. Dr. MacLennan can answer any questions you may have about the procedure and breast implant health in your consultation. Call Mountain Lake Plastic Surgery at (802) 231-4284 or schedule your appointment online.