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6 Things You Need to Know About the Risk of Breast Implants Right Now

By Rethink Breast Cancer December 4 2018

Breast implants have been making headlines leaving a lot of us with questions. For breast cancer patients, the choice to have reconstruction and what type of implant to choose can be complicated. Like many aspects of treatment, there are risks associated with every type of reconstruction and it is important to weigh your options carefully.

Making an informed choice requires knowing all the facts so we’ve consulted the experts and here are the top 6 things you need to know about breast implants right now. 

1What 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.

2Why 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.

3Why choose a textured breast implant with this risk?

Depending on a woman’s needs, surgeons may offer a textured implant because anatomically-shaped implants are only available with a textured surface. Factors that can come into play include the woman’s body size and shape and the look they are trying to achieve. However, what’s most important is that options and their associated risks are discussed, and women make an informed decision.

4Are 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

5Should 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 health-care professionals being forthcoming with the information that patients need.

Both textured and smooth surface breast implants continue to be fully approved for use by Health Canada and each implant has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. 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 also find out what type of breast implant you have by contacting the manufacturer.

Allergan: / 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.

6What 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.