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ALCL and Breast Implants
Breast implants are probably the most studied and researched medical device ever, and they have probably had the most rigorous and thorough review process regarding their safety by the FDA to be approved for their usage. Such scrutiny does provide a level of comfort to many of the hundreds of thousands of women undergoing breast augmentations every year.
Though breast implants are safe, this is not to say that they are not associated with any risks. There are risks like virtually everything else in life even if some are infinitesimally rare – like the relatively recently “discovered” ALCL (anaplastic large cell lymphoma) which also has been seen with other types of implants in the body including orthopedic and even dental ones.
What Is ALCL?
ALCL, or anaplastic large cell lymphoma, is a rare kind of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that existed and was known previously independent of any type of implant. This rare form of cancer can occur as either systemic (throughout the body) ALCL, which is aggressive and may affect all the organs of the body, or as primary cutaneous (skin) ALCL, which is slow-growing and only affects the skin. Those with systemic ALCL may develop painless enlarged lymph nodes, night sweats, fevers, unexplained weight loss, and other negative manifestations in the skin, bones, bone marrow, liver, and lungs. Individuals with primary cutaneous ALCL will usually have skin nodules.
Association With Breast Implants
The association between ALCL and breast implants has received significant attention in recent years. In 2011, based on a study of approximately 60 known cases worldwide of ALCL in women with breast implants, the FDA cautioned patients and medical professionals that there might be a risk of developing ALCL in women with breast implants. With more cases diagnosed over the past few years, now numbering around 200 worldwide (out of more than ten million women who have had breast implants), research has suggested that there may be an extremely rare association between the two.
Interestingly, the common denominator in all the reported cases of ALCL so far has been textured surfaced breast implants. There have been absolutely no reported cases that have involved only smooth surfaced implants. ALCL has also been seen in association with other, non-cosmetic implants placed in the body including those used for dental and orthopedic purposes.
What This Means for You
ALCL (non-implant related) is incredibly rare and is diagnosed in only one in 500,000 American women each year. In fact, the risk of developing ALCL is 41,000 times lower than the risk of developing breast cancer. Placing this in perspective, if you are experiencing implant or breast-related issues including a relatively acute increase in the size of one or, rarely, both breasts the odds of it being related to ALCL are extremely low. It is far more likely that your symptoms will be associated with capsular contracture or another process.
Nevertheless, it is important that seek an evaluation by either Dr. Turkeltaub or your plastic surgeon who can then evaluate you and determine exactly what may be going on. In the unlikely event that examination results reveal the presence of ALCL, you can be reassured that the condition is treatable and rarely life-threatening.
If you have breast implants and would like to learn more about current research regarding ALCL and breast implants, contact Dr. Turkeltaub’s office for more information. If you are interested in having a breast augmentation, Dr. Turkeltaub can provide you with more detailed information regarding current research, risks, and the many benefits of undergoing this procedure.
To schedule your personal consultation with Dr. Turkeltaub today, call (480) 451–3000 or fill out our online contact form.