5 Things You Need to Know About the Risk of Breast Implants

Making an informed decision requires knowing all the facts, so we’ve consulted the experts and here are the top five things you need to know about breast implants right now.

Should I have my implants removed?

Like with all aspects of breast cancer – from prevention to treatment – we encourage women to understand their risks and make informed choices.  This goes hand-in-hand with physicians and other healthcare professionals being forthcoming with the information that patients need. To date, there has been no recommendation made for asymptomatic patients to have their implants removed or replaced. Discussion with your surgeon about the current information available about BIA-ALCL and breast implant complications is always a sensible approach. 

You can find out what type of breast implant you have by contacting the manufacturer.

Allergan: MR-MedicalInformation@Allergan.com / 1-800-668-6424

Mentor/Jonhson & Johnson: 1-800-668-9045

Alternatively, you can find out this information by contacting your surgeon or obtaining your surgical records from the appropriate hospital.

 What is BIA-ALCL?

Breast implant-associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) is a t-cell lymphoma in or around the breast implant scar tissue.   To date, all cases of BIA-ALCL are associated with textured breast implants.  BIA-ALCL can affect women with breast implants regardless of the indication for breast implant insertion.

While BIA-ALCL can be a very serious disease, and the thought of a second type of cancer is very scary, it’s important to remember that the risk is very low. It’s estimated the incidence of BIA-ALCL is between 1 in 3,800 and 1 in 30,000. BIA-ALCL typically presents with sudden noticeable swelling of the affected breast. When identified early, it is usually fully treatable with implant removal and observation. To date, there have been no reported cases of BIA-ALCL with smooth surface breast implants.

Why hadn’t I heard about this before?

BIA-ALCL was given an official designation by the World Health Organization in 2016.  If you had your surgery prior to then, it may not have specifically been part of your consultation.  However, if you have any concern now, the best thing to do is to contact your surgeon to understand your specific risk for BIA-ALCL.

Are there any other risks associated with breast implants?

Implant rupture and capsular contracture (when the body surrounds the implant with scar tissue) are both associated risks.  But if you experience any of the following symptoms, it’s recommended to contact your surgeon.

  • Swelling
  • Persistent pain
  • Change in shape of the breast
  • A new palpable lump or irregularity

Also check Health Canada’s website for more information about breast implants and associated risks.

What should I do now?

First, take a deep breath.  And if you’ve had reconstructive surgery and have concerns about your risk, speak to your surgeon. For more information on reconstruction click here.

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