If you’ve had breast implants, then it’s important to be especially aware of changes in your breasts and overall health. Such changes may be a sign of a serious condition.
What is ALCL and BII?
ALCL is the abbreviation for Breast-Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma, and BII stands for Breast-Implant Illness. BII is the general category that covers a group of symptoms associated with breast implants, like memory loss, joint pain, and fatigue. ALCL is a type of lymphoma or cancer associated with breast implants. It’s a newer illness, and the FDA first discovered a possible link between breast implants and ALCL in 2011. Some experts believe that this type of cancer is due to an autoimmune reaction to breast implants and is not a type of breast cancer. Autoimmune response means that the body attacks its tissues.
Risk factors for ALCL and BII
BII and ALCL occur only in people who currently have breast implants. The risk of developing these conditions is low, but ALCL is serious cancer. Silicone and saline breast implants have been associated with BII and ALCL. Breast implants that have textured surfaces are most likely to cause ALCL. People with a personal or close family history of autoimmune disorders or allergies may be more likely to develop BII and ALCL. ALCL can occur at any point after having breast implants but usually occurs right to ten years after the breast implant surgery.
Symptoms of ALCL and BII
In addition to general symptoms like fatigue and joint pain, symptoms of ALCL and BII may include:
- Breast shape changing
- Swelling of the breasts
- Breasts no longer appear to be similar in size
- A new lump in the breast or the breast tissue in the armpit
- A new skin rash in the chest area
- Breasts feel harder to the touch
- Pain in the breasts that is new or unusual
How are ALCL and BII diagnosed?
These exams and tests may be used to diagnose ALCL and BII:
- A physical exam from a physician to check the breasts
- MRI (magnetic resonance imagery) or an ultrasound to check for fluid or lumps around the breasts or breast tissue
- A needle biopsy, where a needle is inserted into a fluid-filled area to test for ALCL
Treatments for ALCL and BII
The first step in treating ALCL is to remove the breast implants. This is usually referred to as an explant surgery. While the implants are removed, any scar tissue around the breast implants is also removed. BII and ALCL are usually resolved by removing the implants and scar tissue, but in some cases, ALCL may require chemotherapy or radiation. After treatment, patients will have regular PET (positron emission tomography) and CT (computerized tomography) scans to ensure the cancer is truly gone and has not spread to other parts of the body.