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Breast augmentation is an incredibly popular cosmetic surgery that is designed to increase the size and enhance the shape of a patient's breasts. While breast implants have a long track record of safety and efficacy, some patients have concerns regarding their potential association with cancer, specifically breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). 

Do Breast Implants Cause Cancer?

To put it simply, breast implants themselves do not cause breast cancer. Breast cancer is the result of abnormal cells in the breast growing uncontrollably. That said, there are rare situations in which breast implants may be associated with a specific type of cancer known as BIA-ALCL. It is crucial to understand that BIA-ALCL is a type of lymphoma rather than breast cancer, but it can develop around the breast implant.

What is BIA-ALCL?

BIA-ALCL is a rare but very treatable condition. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) holds that the risk of developing BIA-ALCL is considerably low, with most cases occurring in individuals who have textured breast implants. Textured implants are characterized by their rough surface, which is designed to minimize the risk of implant movement and rotation. The FDA estimates that the incidence of BIA-ALCL can range anywhere from 1 in 3,817 to 1 in 30,000 for patients with textured implants. The incidence of this condition is significantly lower for individuals with smooth implants.

It's important to understand the symptoms of BIA-ALCL to ensure early detection and appropriate treatment. Symptoms may include swelling, pain, lumps, or changes in breast shape or size. Patients who experience any of these symptoms should consult with their plastic surgeon or healthcare provider as soon as possible.

How Can BIA-ALCL Be Prevented?

For years, regulatory bodies and professional societies have been actively monitoring the safety of breast implants to address concerns related to BIA-ALCL. The FDA, for instance, has issued safety communications and provided guidelines for patients and healthcare professionals. They recommend that individuals with breast implants monitor their breasts and consult with their healthcare provider if they experience any symptoms or changes.

In terms of prevention, there is ongoing research to understand the exact causes and risk factors associated with BIA-ALCL. As a precautionary measure, some regulatory bodies have restricted or removed specific types of textured implants from the market. That said, prospective patients should keep in mind that this condition is a potential issue and not a certain one. The vast majority of individuals who undergo breast implant surgery do not develop BIA-ALCL. 

Breast Explant Surgery

Patients who develop BIA-ALCL can rest assured that breast explant surgery is a viable means of correcting the issue. This procedure involves removing the breast implant and the capsule that grows around it. All incisions made during the procedure are made in the same locations as the original ones (from the implant procedure), ensuring that the patient does not develop more scars. 

What is the Takeaway?

It is essential for all individuals with breast implants to be aware of the symptoms of BIA-ALCL and consult with their healthcare provider if they experience any changes or concerns. Regulatory bodies and professional societies continue to monitor the safety of breast implants, and ongoing research aims to further understand the causes and risk factors associated with BIA-ALCL. Ultimately, the decision to undergo breast augmentation should be made after a comprehensive discussion with a qualified plastic surgeon, considering the individual's preferences, goals, and potential risks.

At Lampert MD Plastic Surgery, Dr. Joshua Lampert, MD, and his team of expert practitioners help patients achieve the look of their dreams. He has performed countless breast surgeries and prioritizes his patients’ comfort and satisfaction throughout the process. Reach out to us to set up a private consultation and learn more about our breast implant options. 

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