Breast Implant Recall – 10 Things You Need to Know

You’ve probably heard about the breast implant recall. Allergan has decided to voluntarily recall all unused stock of BIOCELL textured breast implants and tissue expanders. We sat down with Dr. Constance M. Chen, board-certified plastic surgeon with special expertise in the use of innovative natural techniques for those undergoing breast reconstruction, to discuss what this means for our community.

Our Top Ten Things You Should Know About the Breast Implant Recall:

  • The recall is due to Breast Implant Associated-Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (or BIA-ALCL for short) which is a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that can develop around breast implants. It is NOT breast cancer but rather an immune system cancer. It’s an inflammatory reaction to the implant itself. 95% of cases of BIA-ALCL have been in people with textured implants, and of the 573 cases worldwide, 473 of them were both textured and produced by the manufacturer Allergan Biocell.
  • The incidence rate is low. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center cites 1/443 women with textured implants can develop BIA-ALCL. That’s about 0.25%.
  • BIA-ALCL is curative in most cases. It is a slow-growing disease, generally taking 7-9 years to develop. If caught early, it can be cured with removal of the implant and capsule (called a complete en bloc capsulectomy). In some cases, chemotherapy and radiation may be used as treatment options. Most patients can be put into long-term remission.
  • The signs and symptoms of BIA-ALCL are swelling, pain, or a lump in the breast. If you’ve started exhibiting symptoms, an MRI can be done to see if there is excess fluid. If there is, the fluid can be biopsied to test for CD-30 markers.
  • The FDA recommends leaving the implant in unless you begin exhibiting symptoms. Because of the low incidence rate, it’s not imperative to remove the implant right away.
  • Surgery is always a risk. Dr. Chen advises following the FDA’s recommendation and leaving the implant in unless you begin to show symptoms. Electing to have surgery comes with its own risks – financial, medical and psychosocial.
  • If you are experiencing symptoms and having the implant removed, make sure your surgeon removes the capsule AND the implant. If you are not experiencing symptoms and want the implant removed, you do not have to have the capsule removed. It is up to you. Talk to your healthcare professional about the pros and cons of removing the capsule.
  • The FDA recommends MRIs for people who have silicone implants every 2-3 years. Silicone implants are subject to silent ruptures and more likely to be associated with autoimmune issues.
  • Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of BIA-ALCL or have any questions about the recall or your specific implant.
  • You are your own best advocate. Do not let a healthcare provider dismiss your concerns. If something does not feel right, bring it up to your doctor.
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