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Breast augmentation is the most common cosmetic surgery done. The implants are a breast-shaped bag made of a silicone membrane filled with silicone gel or saline. Implants can also be used as part of recreating a breast shape after surgery for breast cancer.

There are many different types of implants. Sometimes they need to be replaced after 10 to 20 years. Modern designs of silicone implants have a thicker outer shell of silicone rubber and also thickened gel, so they are not likely to leak.

In recent years the has been some concern over the breast implants and cancer risk link. According to medical research, some types of implants are linked to the so-called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) or as often referred to as breast implants cancer. There is a lot to uncover, however. Medical research also says that implants don’t cause breast cancer.

Let’s dig deeper into the topic with this article. We’re going to summarize all the information we found so you’re informed as much as possible.

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Breast Implant Safety

In general, breast implants are a safe option for women who want to undergo breast augmentation or breast reconstruction surgery. There are some things to consider, however.

According to various reports about cases of anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) had a connection to textured implants. This has caused the US FDA to recall textured implants manufactured by a brand called Allergan. After that more and more attention has been put on breast implant safety. The concern with implants is not only a cancer link but also about a condition called Breast Implant Illness.

How are breast implants connected to cancer risk?

Research is still not too clear on this. But what experts say is that the majority of BIA ALCL patients have textured implants. If you’ve ever researched breast implants or breast augmentation, then you probably know that textured implants are a type of implant that’s slightly rougher than smooth ones.

Unfortunately, there is no definite answer as to why textured implants are the problem here. There are some possible answers to these questions. It’s believed that textured implants make women’s immune systems respond in a way that causes anaplastic large cell lymphoma.

How rare is Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA ALCL)?

Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA ALCL) is a very rare cancer. Most experts say that the chance of getting it are very low even if you do have implants. That being said, it seems that women who have undergone reconstructive surgery and have textured tissue expanders have a higher chance of getting ALCL. That being said, BIA ALCL is so far only associated with textured implants – there haven’t been reports on smooth implants causing this rare form of cancer.

What is BIA ALCL exactly?

While some people believe it’s a type of breast cancer, breast implant-associated lymphoma (BIA ALCL) is a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – or cancer of the immune system. A lot of people also call it breast implant cancer. Usually, the BIA ALCL is found around the fluid around the implant. Even though the risk of getting it is considered low, it’s still important that women know the risks of getting textured implants. According to medical reports, BIA ALCL can show up from one year after the surgery and even 37 years after. That being said, it mostly occurs around 5-8 years after the surgery.

Symptoms of BIA ALCL

Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA ALCL) presents with symptoms such as swelling, pain around the area of the implant, or a lump in the breast/armpit. Other symptoms include a stubborn rash or hardening of the breast. Those symptoms might appear years after the implant placement.

If you feel any symptom, visit your doctor immediately. They will perform tests (collect fluid around the implant) to determine the cause of your symptoms.

What do I do if I have implants?

In case you have smooth implants, you don’t have to worry too much. But of course, the best thing you can do is talk to your doctor and tell them if you have any concerns. In most cases, surgeons wouldn’t recommend removing textured implants because that doesn’t mean the risk of getting Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma is lower. What’s important is to monitor your implants and body for any kind of symptoms.

What’s the treatment for Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA ALCL)?

BIA ALCL can be successfully treated if detected early on. If it’s diagnosed in the early stages, then the treatment involves the removal of the implant and the surrounding fluid. Surgeons prefer to remove the two implants, even if ALCL is detected only in one breast because there’s a risk that the disease will occur in the other breast as well.

If necessary, additional treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy can be included.

What about breast implants and breast cancer? Is there any link?

There is no current data that suggests that breast implants can cause breast cancer. Women with cosmetic breast implants are at no greater risk of getting breast cancer. In a pooled long-term follow-up study of almost four decades, involving 3,486 Swedish and 2,736 Danish women who underwent cosmetic breast implantation between 1965 and 1993, cancer incidence through 2002 was ascertained through nationwide cancer registries and no association was found with increased breast cancer incidence. The risk of breast cancer does not appear to be from a single source. Even women who do not have breast augmentation can be susceptible to breast cancer.

What should I do if I think about getting implants?

The most important thing you have to do is discuss your options and expectations about breast implants with your surgeon. They will give you professional advice and evaluate what you need to meet your expectations. Another thing you have to consider is the risks of breast implants. While they are safe to use, as a patient you have to know that they are not a lifetime device. Implants have to be removed in 10-15 years because the longer you have them, the higher risk of getting complications.

You’d also have to consider the health risks of getting BIA ALCL and Breast Implant Illness (BII). While the chance of getting BIA ALCL is very low in general, it’s not something to overlook. The same goes for BII as well.

Some final thoughts

We know that reading about the risks of a breast implant can be stressful. But it’s still important to get as much information as possible so that you can make an informed decision about your body. Don’t forget that information is the key to properly evaluating your situation. While we can say that breast implants are generally safe and most women never have any problems with them, for some women that’s not the case. The risks associated with breast implants are often connected to their improper placement or for aesthetic reasons but there can be some real health consequences as well. Don’t forget to talk to your doctor about your options and ask them a lot of questions if you have any concerns!

If you’re considering breast implants, it is important to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor and together decide what is best for you.