The Food and Drug Administration has identified a link between a specific type of breast implant and a rare form of cancer that’s being called breast implant-associated anaplastic large-cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).
Nearly all the women who have experienced this cancer of the immune system have had “textured” breast implants, which have a rough surface. Textured implants are sometimes recommended by plastic surgeons because they are less likely than smooth implants to later move out of position. (Their textured surface is not visible through the skin.)
What to do: Women who have breast implants—either textured or smooth—should see their doctors if they have swelling and/or asymmetry in the area. This could be a buildup of fluid, which could be a symptom of BIA-ALCL.
Fortunately, the survival rate of this cancer is very high when it is diagnosed and treated promptly. Treatment typically involves a test to determine whether this cancer is indeed the cause of the fluid collection, followed by surgical removal of the implant if it is. In around 85% of cases, the cancer can be cured with surgery without even subjecting the patient to chemotherapy.
It is not necessary to have textured implants removed simply to avoid the possibility of developing BIA-ALCL in the future. This cancer is very rare even among women who have textured implants—as of July 2017, there have been only 464 known cases worldwide among the millions of women who have had textured implants—and very treatable when it does occur.