Patient Resources

Information About Breast Implant – Associated Lymphoma

What do we know?

In recent years, concerns have been raised about the risk of a rare cancer that has been potentially associated with certain types of breast implants. It’s called Breast Implant – Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). The Food and Drug Administration has been monitoring the situation.

In 2016, the World Health Organization designated the condition as associated with breast implants, based on a number of new studies. Currently the data suggests that this cancer occurs more often after breast implants with textured surfaces. Many countries, medical foundations and networks have published information to raise awareness of this issue.

In March of this year, FDA issued a breast implant warning indicating that there have been some 359 cases of BIA-ALCL that have been identified world- wide. The vast majority of cases were found in women with textured implants.

Why are textured implants used?

They are used to prevent a surgical complication called capsular contracture where the scar tissue around the implant becomes hard and painful.

What is BIA-ALCL?

BIA-ALCL is a rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the cells of the immune system that can appear years (2-30 years) after breast augmentation or reconstructive surgery for breast cancer. Most cases were diagnosed 8 years after implantation.

BIA-ALCL is NOT breast cancer. Rather, the cancer has been found in the fluid that surrounds the implant or in fibrous scar capsule that surrounds the implant, not in the breast tissue or in the implant.

What causes BIA-ALCL?

We do not yet know the exact cause, research is ongoing. The risk is very low but is increased compared to women without breast implants. And, it appears that certain types of implants increase the risk, specifically textured implants, and not smooth surface implants.

A new study just published this month found that the lifetime prevalence in people with textured implants is 33 per 1 million people.

The risk is not increased merely by whether they are silicone or saline implants, and is unrelated to the reason for implants, whether augmentation or reconstruction. The theory is that it is a side-effect of textured implants, that may cause bacteria to cling to the implant which creates an immune response and inflammation.

Breast implant manufacturers are currently studying the cancer risk with textured implants.

What are the Symptoms?

The primary symptoms are persistent pain, lumps, swelling or breast asymmetry that occur years after the implant placement. If you suspect a problem, see Dr. Griffin and he can do testing to address your concerns.

How is it treated?

It is easily treated if caught early. When there are symptoms, the treatment is removal of the implants and the scar tissue and fluid. In most cases, it appears this is enough. Removal of breast implants in patients without symptoms, is not recommended.

What you should do?

If you have breast implants, monitor them, and continue with your routine care. If you have pain, swelling or other changes in or around the implants call Dr. Griffin promptly and follow his instructions. If do not have symptoms, there is no reason to call. 

If you are planning breast augmentation for any reason, speak with Dr. Griffin. He is the expert and will give you his honest opinion about the risks and benefits of the procedure and your options.

At Dr. Anthony Griffin’s office in Beverly Hills, CA, you can expect and will receive all relevant information to keep you informed. Check back often for updates.