The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced that breast implants may increase the risk of anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a rare cancer of the immune system.
It’s not currently known if the type of implant makes a difference in the development of what has been labeled BIA-ALCL, or breast implant-associated, anaplastic large cell lymphoma.
What Is Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma?
According to the Lymphoma Research Foundation, ALCL is a rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that occurs in only one percent of all non-Hodgkin's lymphomas. The cancer can appear in skin, lymph nodes, or other organs. If it appears in the skin, it’s often less aggressive and is known as primary cutaneous ALCL.
The cancer can appear in skin, lymph nodes, or other organs.
Symptoms of the condition include raised, red skin lesions that tend to ulcerate, may itch, and don’t go away. In only 10% of cases does this type of ALCL extend beyond the skin. Systemic ALCL may be ALK-positive or negative. Both are considered aggressive lymphomas. There is no cure for ALCL, but it can be put into remission. However, although ALK-negative is treated more aggressively, it has a higher incidence of relapse.
Breast Cancer Patients
Many women who elect for mastectomy after a breast cancer diagnosis choose to have reconstructive surgery. In most cases, this involves breast implants as it’s an easier surgery than other types of reconstruction due to its better recovery.
In addition, many women aren’t eligible for surgeries such as autologous reconstruction, which uses the woman’s own tissue. This is because they may not have enough extra tissue to perform the surgery.
Some women who opted for implants have now been diagnosed with a different, more aggressive form of cancer.
Unfortunately, some of the women who opted for implants have now been diagnosed with a different, more aggressive form of cancer. In addition, because BIA-ALCL is rare, doctors often misdiagnose the illness. This will lead to delayed treatment that can put a patient’s life at risk.
Breast Implant Risk Factors
Breast implants have a silicone outer shell that is either smooth or textured, and research has shown that BIA-ALCL is more common among women who have the textured surface. It’s not clear what other risk factors exist other than a family or personal history of autoimmune disorders, which may include allergies, IBS, migraines, fibromyalgia, or chronic fatigue.
Breast Implant Filling
In 2018, 88% of breast implants were silicone-filled, which has led researchers to focus on this type of implant when it looks at cancer risk. However, BIA-ALCL has occurred in women who have either silicone or saline implants. This indicates that there may be a risk regardless of the filling in the implants, although the surface may have some impact on the risk of developing this rare cancer.
BIA-ALCL has occurred in women who have either silicone or saline implants.
Symptoms of BIA-ALCL
Symptoms in the area of the implants are often not related to cancer, and it’s recommended that women perform self-breast examinations each month to check for problems. One symptom of BIA-ALCL is a change in the shape of the breast. One may appear larger than the other or have a different shape.
Normally, the symptoms appear after two years but the average time is eight years. Other symptoms include:
Fluid accumulation in or around the implant/breast
Swelling in or around implant/breast
If you file a lawsuit as a result of developing this condition, you will need to reach out to a product liability lawyer. Product liability claims can be filed against a manufacturer, distributor, supplier, or retailer. If you have developed BIA-ALCL after a breast implant, contact an attorney to learn more about the resources that are available to you.