RESTON, VA (December 4, 2018)— The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently updated public information about breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). This recent update has caused an uptick in concern among women who have had or are considering breast implants.
“We have gotten several phone calls this week about ALCL since the recent news stories have raised awareness of this rare condition to the public,” says Dr. Knotts, a board-certified plastic surgeon at Austin-Weston Center for Cosmetic Surgery. “We do hundreds of breast implant cases every year, so naturally we had some patients who saw the news and wanted to make sure they were not at risk.”
BIA-ALCL is not breast cancer but is a rare type of lymphoma that develops adjacent to breast implants. The most common way this shows up for patients is a swelling of the breast years after a breast implant operation or as a new lump in the breast discovered by self-exam or as part of an annual physical.
Reston board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Sigal says, “We have known about this condition since 2011, and it is extremely rare. The odds of getting the condition are on par with the odds of getting struck by lightning.”
Despite its rarity, plastic surgeons recommend that any new breast swelling in a woman with implants be investigated. “This type of thing is usually curable if treated early and involves removing the implant,” says Dr. George Weston, also of Austin-Weston.
Breast implants come in two major varieties, described by the characteristic of the implant shell, either textured or smooth. The risk of ALCL is significantly higher in women who have undergone textured breast implant surgery.
“We don’t understand exactly why this link is present, but it is clear that women with smooth implants are at a lower risk. This is thy kind of thing the FDA is investigating,” says Knotts.
Advice from medical professionals for patients who are concerned about ALCL is to visit with your plastic surgeon. “We do 90% smooth implants, so most patients who have called this week have been given reassurance by this. We do encourage any patients with new swelling or changes to come see us, so we can make sure there isn’t something more serious going on,” says Sigal.
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