AUSTIN, Texas — According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the number of patients diagnosed with unique cases of anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) after receiving breast implants has increased.
As of September 2018, the FDA identified 457 cases of the rare cancer, which is up by 43 reported in last year's report when the FDA identified 414 total cases. Nine of the 457 patients have died.
According to the FDA, BIA-ALCL appears to develop more frequently in individuals with textured implants than in people with smooth-surfaced implants.
Dr. Jennifer Walden is an Austin-based board-certified plastic surgeon and said that symptoms of the disease entity will typically present later on.
"They could be two to 28 years with an average in our studies showing eight years after implantation. It can present with asymmetry or swelling of the breast on one side which signifies fluid in the implant," Dr. Walden said. "If you have these symptoms, such as fluid around the implant, one side of the breast is swelling or masses associated with your implant, pain or tenderness, then consult with your board-certified plastic surgeon immediately."
Walden explained the process of tackling the disease will involve a team of people: An oncologist, radiologist, your general physician and a plastic surgeon.
"Usually this is readily curable if found soon after the process starts," Walden said.
Although not specific to BIA-ALCL, the FDA recommends following standard medical recommendations which include routine mammography screening and routine self breast exams to search for lumps. Self breast exams are also important for patients who don't have any breast implants.
Despite the FDA report, Dr. Walden said because this disease is rare and curable if treated promptly, it should not scare women who have breast implants, nor deter those who have been considering them. Instead, she encourages women to be proactive about their breast health and communicative with their physician and plastic surgeon about any concerns.
"Breast implant procedures are the most common cosmetic procedure there is. In the united states, over 333,000 women in the U.S. got implants in 2017. 1.5 million women have breast implants globally," she said. "There's a high satisfaction rate with this surgery, and it has been shown to improve quality of life for cosmetic and breast reconstruction reasons after breast cancer itself. Women shouldn't have breast implants taken out because of this report. It's extremely rare. They should just monitor themselves and women that are considering breast implants should consult with a board certified plastic surgeon to become educated about that and they will be given information in the informed consent and the product labeling about the process."
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