There are a number of reasons why people opt for breast implants/breast augmentation, but for most cases, it is mainly either for cosmetic enhancement or reconstruction following mastectomy to treat breast cancer.
Breast implants are medical prosthesis inserted in the breast area. They differ in their size, shape, filling and texture but most of it are either round or teardrop-shaped.
A breast implant may be filled with saline ( sterile saline solution, like salt water ) or with silicone gel.
Rarely, it could also contain polypropylene string, soy oil or some other material as alternative composite implants. The surface of the implant may be smooth or textured.
According to The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are possible associations between breast implants and the risk of developing breast-implant associated anaplastic large cell carcinoma (BIA-ALCL).
BIA-ALCL is not breast cancer, which forms from the cells in the breast - it is a rare type of cancer of the immune system (non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) that grows in the fluid and scar tissue that develops around the breast implant.
Currently, the causes and the extent to which the surface of the breast implants being a risk factor are still unclear and are being actively investigated.
Based on the current evidence, experts do not think the development of BIA-ALCL is related to either the contents (saline/silicone) or shape (round/ teardrop) of the implant, but rather on the difference of the surface texture of the implant.
Globally, the majority of patients who developed BIA-ALCL are mostly those who have had textured implants, but there also have been a few unconfirmed cases in patients who have received smooth-surfaced implants. The possible association is still under investigation.
Breast implant associated cancer is rare.
“The estimated incidence rates of BIA-ALCL reported in the literature ranges from 1 in 3,817 to 1 in 30, 000 patients with textured breast implants.”
It has been reported to occur as early as 1 year and as late as 37 years after the insertion of an implant.
The most common symptom is swelling around the breast implant caused by fluid build-up, but in some cases, it may appear as a lump in the breast or armpit.
BIA-ACLC is rare, so if you develop swelling of an implanted breast, your doctor will send you for an ultrasound scan to see if the swelling is due to fluid build-up.
A sample of the fluid will then be removed and sent to a laboratory for analysis to help identify whether or not the fluid build-up is caused by breast implant-associated cancer.
“Most fluid build-ups are not caused by breast implant-associated cancer.”
In most cases, removal of the implants and the scar tissue that forms around the implant is all that’s necessary to treat the cancer.
If the cancer has spread to other areas of the body, further treatment is likely to be necessary, such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy or additional surgery.
Visit your doctor for routine checkups, and report any suspicious signs or symptoms- such as new breast swelling, lumps, discharge, pain or changes in breast shape - promptly.
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Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). (2019). Breast implant associated cancer (or BIA-ALCL). [online] Available at: https://www.tga.gov.au/breast-implant-associated-cancer-or-bia-alcl.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2019). Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). [online] Available at: https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/breast-implants/breast-implant-associated-anaplastic-large-cell-lymphoma-bia-alcl.
Rama, S., Hwang, W. and Chng, W. (2019). POTENTIAL RISK OF BREAST IMPLANT ASSOCIATED-ANAPLASTIC LARGE CELL LYMPHOMA (BIA-ALCL). [ebook] Singapore: Health Sciences Authority - Medical Device Advisory. Available at: https://www.pss.org.sg/sites/default/files/e-bulletin/Issue_153/mdno11_potential_risk_of_breast_implant_associated_anaplastic_large_cell_lymphoma_10may2019.pdf.
Pruthi, S. (2019). Breast implants and cancer: Any connection?. [online] Mayo Clinic. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/expert-answers/breast-implants-and-cancer/faq-20057774.
Nordqvist, C. (2017). Breast augmentation: What you need to know. [online] Medical News Today. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263567.php.
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