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Breast implant associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL)

Category: Women's Health

Topic: Breast Disorders

BIA-ALCL is a rare type of lymphoma that has been reported in women with a textured breast implant device. It is a cancer of the immune system, not a type of breast cancer. When identified early, it may be curable in most patients.

Signs and Symptoms: 

All women with or without breast implants should regularly perform thorough self-examinations of their breasts in line with recommended guidelines.

The most common symptom of BIA-ALCL is swelling of the breast. It can also present as a lump in the breast or in the armpit. If you think there are any changes, or if you have any concerns, consult your general practitioner (GP) or treating Specialist/Surgeon who will undertake the required tests. Testing for BIA-ALCL is only recommended if you are experiencing symptoms.

Please note: it is normal to have some breast swelling for a period of time after your breast implant operation, and your doctor will advise how long this swelling should be expected.

Cause: 

Women at risk of BIA-ALCL

There are various types of breast implants. The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the Australian Government Department responsible for regulating medical devices, has investigated the association between breast implants and BIA-ALCL. The TGA have found:

  • the risk of developing BIA-ALCL is rare
  • the risk of developing BIA-ALCL is associated with the type of breast implants. The rougher and more textured the implant, the higher the risk appears to be
  • at the time of publishing, there has not been a documented case of BIA-ALCL in a patient with only smooth implants

Breast implants with a higher risk of BIA-ALCL have either been removed or suspended from the Australian market. In addition, some suppliers have also decided to remove particular types of breast implants from the market. For up-to-date information on which breast implants and tissue expanders are affected please see https://www.tga.gov.au/hubs/breast-implants.

What if I have the affected implants?

If you have the affected breast implants, follow the advice under ‘Signs and Symptoms’ above.

If you think there are any changes or if you have concerns consult your GP or treating Specialist/Surgeon, or alternatively call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for further advice.

Medical experts recommend for women who have received the affected breast implants, that the breast implants are not removed unless symptoms are present (swelling in the breast or lump in the breast or armpit).

If you are unsure about what type of breast implant you received, contact your doctor or health service that performed the breast implant procedure.


Other resources: 

Further information on the association between BIA-ALCL can be found on the TGA website https://www.tga.gov.au/breast-implant-associated-cancer-or-bia-alcl.

The TGA have published a consumer information sheet available on their website https://www.tga.gov.au/sites/default/files/recall-of_allergan-textured-breast-implants-what-you-should-know-if-you-have-implants.pdf

The TGA have also published an information sheet available on their website for health professionals https://www.tga.gov.au/sites/default/files/recall-allergan-textured-breast-implants-what-you-should-know-as-a-health-professional.pdf