Breast Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL)*
BIA-ALCL is a rare and highly treatable type of lymphoma that can develop around breast implants. BIA-ALCL occurs most frequently in patients who have breast implants with textured surfaces. This is a cancer of the immune system, not a type of breast cancer. The current lifetime risk of BIA-ALCL is estimated to be 1:3817 – 1:30,000 women with textured implants based upon current confirmed cases and textured implant sales data over the past two decades. When caught early, BIA-ALCL is usually curable.
Common symptoms include breast enlargement, pain, asymmetry, lump in the breast or armpit, overlying skin rash, hardening of the breast, or a large fluid collection typically developing at least more than one year after receiving an implant, and on average after 8 to 10 years. For any patient experiencing these or any symptoms, they should see their doctor for evaluation.
BIA-ALCL has been found with both silicone and saline implants and both breast cancer reconstruction and cosmetic patients. To date, there are not any confirmed BIA-ALCL cases that involve only a smooth implant. BIA-ALCL patients seem to have an allergic reaction to textured devices over many years. Currently, it is not possible to test for who is at risk of this disease.
Considering Reconstruction with Implants?
Breast cancer patients considering implant reconstruction should discuss the benefits and risks of different types of implants with their physician. There are many breast implant options such as smooth, textured, round, shaped, saline, and both liquid and solid silicone. A physician may suggest a certain implant shape, surface and fill to achieve an optimal reconstruction while minimizing potential complications. BIA-ALCL is an emerging risk of textured implants and patients should be aware when choosing the implant that is right for them.
Have you developed symptoms?
The most common symptoms are unexplained breast enlargement, asymmetry, fluid buildup or a lump in the breast or armpit, but may be rarely more subtle such as overlying skin rash, hardening of the breast. Women who develop these symptoms should see their physician to be evaluated with a physical exam and further testing.
1. Schedule a follow-up appointment with your treating physician to discuss and concerns you may have about your breast health.
2. Following a physical examination, patients with BIA-ALCL symptoms may receive an ultrasound or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the symptomatic breast to evaluate for fluid or lumps around the implant and in the lymph nodes.
3. If fluid or a mass is found, patients will require a needle biopsy with drainage of the fluid to test for BIA-ALCL. This fluid will be tested for CD30 immune staining (CD30IHC) performed by a pathologist. Testing for CD30IHC is required to confirm a diagnosis or rule out BIA-ALCL. Fluid collections ruled out by CD30IHC for BIA-ALCL will be treated as typical seromas by a physician. Specimens not testing for CD30 may miss the diagnosis of BIA-ALCL.
Have you been Diagnosed with BIA-ALCL?
Receiving the diagnosis of BIA-ALCL may cause anxiety and frustration but women should know that not all cancers are equal. When caught early, BIA-ALCL is curable in most patients.
ASPS endorses BIA-ALCL guidelines established by the National Comprehensive Center Network (NCCN), which defines diagnosis and treatment based on proven methods to treat the disease.
Step by Step Treatment of BIA-ALCL
1. When a woman is diagnosed with BIA-ALCL, her physician will refer her for a PET/CT scan to look for any disease that may have spread throughout the body. Any spread of the disease determines the stages, which is important for treatment.
2. Newly diagnosed patients will be referred to an oncologist for evaluation of BIA-ALCL, staging of disease, and treatment planning.
3. For patients with BIA-ALCL only around the implant, surgery is performed to remove the breast implant and the scar capsule around the implant.
4. Lumps in the armpit may be disease that has spread to the lymph nodes or may still be a normal enlargement of the lymph nodes. Testing of the lymph nodes may be performed with a needle biopsy or with a surgery to remove a lymph node for testing. Additional tests may sometimes include blood tests and a bone marrow biopsy.
5. Some patients with advanced cases may require further treatment with chemotherapy and in rare cases include radiation therapy and/or stem cell transplant therapy.
Following removal of the disease, patients are commonly followed for two years with imaging tests such as PET/CT scans in three- to six-month appointments. Disease re-occurrence is rare after surgical removal for early disease.
*This information has been taken from the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, in which Dr. Barr has been a long term member in good standing. For up to date information on this topic, please go to:
When should I see a doctor about my implants?
If you have breast implants, you should continue your annual routine checkups with your family physician along with your self-examinations at home. If you notice swelling, lumps, pain, or if one side starts to look different from the other, then you should see your family doctor for assessment and testing. There is no reason to contact a doctor if you do not have any symptoms.