You may have heard in the news about ALCL, a rare form of cancer associated with breast implants.
Breast Implant Associated – Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma or BIA-ALCL.
ALCL is not a breast cancer, but a type of lymphoma, which is a cancer of the immune system and it originates in the scar tissue (capsule) and fluid that surrounds the implant.
It is very rare with only around 10 cases per year reported worldwide and there are over 10 million women in the world with breast implants.
As well as being rare, it is treatable, and often removal of the implant and the capsule surrounding the implant can cure it (capsulectomy), although sometimes further treatment may be necessary.
If you are considering breast implants
It is important to be aware of the risk of ALCL, because, while it is a small risk compared with breast cancer in general which occurs in 1 in 10 women, regardless of whether you have implants, it may help you to make an informed decision as to whether implants might be right for you.
ALCL appears to be related to the texturing of implants (textured silicone and polyurethane foam coated implants) rather than smooth silicone implants (read my blog post about this here) and so you may want to consider having smooth implants, although there are benefits to the texturing of implants, which we can discuss at your consultation.
If you already have breast implants
Most of the cases of ALCL were diagnosed when patients sought advice for implant-related problems.
Problems such as:
And these symptoms occurred an average of 8-9 years after implantation.
I offer all of my patients a yearly follow up for a routine check-up, but whether or not you have an appointment to come and see me, if you have any problems or concerns with your implants, please get in touch and I will be happy to see you for a check-up.
I would like to reassure you that there is no cause for immediate concern or alarm as this condition is very rare and it is treatable.
Removal of your implants is not recommended if you do not have any symptoms associated with ALCL.
It is always important to be vigilant for any changes in your breasts, however the risks associated with breast implants remains very low and research is still ongoing as to the extent of this problem.
I will continue to keep you updated with developments and please get in touch if you have any questions or concerns.
A paper has just been published looking at the relative risk that a patient with breast implants has of dying from ALCL.
More and more research is being done on this condition and because the number of patients with ALCL is small, it is slow to get meaningful statistics.
It is also important not to make snap decisions without a strong scientific basis so the more original research that is produced, the better.
It is important to remember that the majority of cases of ALCL have been cured by removing the capsule around the implant (capsulectomy).
Although there is a risk of death, from ALCL, the risk is minimal compared with other activities that we perform daily.
To put things in perspective, the following activities carry a 2.5x greater risk than your lifetime risk of having textured breast implants:
- drinking 0.5 litre of wine
- living 2 days in New York City
- riding a bike 17 miles
- travelling 230 miles by car
- travelling 1000 miles by plane
There is a risk in everything that we do and we have to make a balanced judgement as to whether the risk outweighs the benefits, but it is important to make that judgement on facts rather than feelings.
ALCL is an important condition and we have a duty to educate patients about it, but we must present the science rather than just headlines.
You can see the paper here.
Continue to do your research and please feel free to comment or ask me questions and I will do my best to help you to come to a balanced decision about what is right for you.
I talk more about ALCL in these videos taken from my LIVE Q&A sessions every Tuesday at 7pm on Facebook:
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