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The Truth About Breast Implant Illness

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When people undergo plastic surgery, they often look forward to improved confidence, a refined appearance, or a more youthful aesthetic. Unfortunately, women with textured breast implants must now anticipate something else—an increased risk of a rare cancer called breast implant associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). With over 300,000 breast augmentations performed each year in the United States, textured implants pose an increased risk to women, elevating their chances of developing this rare, but serious, disease.

What is Breast Implant Illness?

BIA-ALCL is a serious disease that can develop from some types of breast implants. Currently, research suggests that this cancer is caused only by textured implants, a variety with a rough surface designed to keep the implant from moving. Smooth implants, which most plastic surgeons in the United States use, are not linked to BIA-ALCL. Though this rare form of cancer is associated with breast implants, it is not a form of breast cancer. BIA-ALCL is actually a form of lymphoma—cancer that affects the cells in the immune system. Like many other kinds of cancer, however, BIA-ALCL is capable of traveling to other parts of the body, posing a serious risk to health.

Though the FDA recognized claims that cancer could be caused by implants as early as 2011, textured implants have been used by plastic surgeons (primarily in South America and Europe) for years. In 2016, the World Health Organization confirmed links between implants and cancer risk, leading the FDA to review implant safety in the wake of new information.

For women who have textured breast implants, news of their cancerous link can be especially troubling. Though the risk of developing BIA-ALCL from textured breast implants is very low, it still poses a significant threat to women. And while nearly a dozen women have died of BIA-ALCL, researchers have identified breast implant removal as an effective treatment or preventative measure for this form of lymphoma. For many women, removing the textured implant or replacing it with a smooth silicone or saline implant makes sense. Not only does this reduce the risk of cancer, but it also can give patients the peace of mind they deserve.

If you have had a breast augmentation and are worried about your health, be sure to verify the kind of implant used by your plastic surgeon. And if you have textured implants and are experiencing worrying symptoms like swelling on just one side, visit your plastic surgeon for an ultrasound. If there is fluid around the implant, it needs to be tested for BIA-ALCL

While Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery of Columbus has never used textured implants, we are happy to help women remove their textured implants or replace them with smooth saline or silicon options. If you are ready to schedule your appointment, call us today at (614) 890-5565 to discuss your treatment options.

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