On July 24, 2019, the FDA asked Allergan, a worldwide drug company, to voluntarily recall certain breast implants and tissue expanders. Allergan did so, and the products are off the market now.
Research Shows Link With Lymphoma
The FDA based the recall on new research, which shows deaths from a certain type of cancer. This cancer is called “breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma,” or BIA-ALCL for short. The research linked it to Allergan’s BIOCELL textured implants and expanders. The FDA asked for the recall to protect people from the increased risk of this cancer.
BIA-ALCL is not breast cancer. It is a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (cancer of the immune system). In most cases, BIA-ALCL is found in the scar tissue and fluid near the implant. But in some cases, it can spread throughout the body.
Symptoms and Treatment Options
Patients with BIA-ALCL have symptoms like pain or swelling near the breast implant that won’t go away. A patient’s chances of developing BIA-ALCL are thought to be very low. However, BIA-ALCL is serious, especially if it’s not caught early or treated quickly.
In most patients, BIA-ALCL is treated successfully with surgery. Doctors take out the implant and the scar tissue around it. Some patients may also need chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
When to Talk With Your Doctor
Kathleen S. Herbig, MD, is a plastic surgeon with University Plastic Surgeons at The University of Tennessee Medical Center. She recommends only patients with symptoms of BIA-ALCL to have their implants removed or replaced.
“If you have been diagnosed with BIA-ALCL, and you have one of these recalled products, talk with your oncologist or plastic surgeon. They can help you decide what’s best for you. That may include having your implants removed and replaced with a different type of implant,” says Herbig. If patients are worried about their risk of developing BIA-ALCL, they should talk with their plastic surgeon or oncologist.
As of July 24, 2019, the medical center stopped using all brands of textured implants and tissue expanders.
Patients with breast implants or tissue expanders should have received a card from their doctor at the time the implants were put in. The card shows what type of implant they received. Patients should use to this card to understand if their implant or expander is included in this recall.
Learn Whether Your Breast Implants Are Part of the Recall
If you have lost your card, call your plastic surgeon to find out what type of implant you have. They will also tell you if it was included in the Allergan recall. You can also find a list of Allergan’s BIOCELL recalled devices on the Allergan website.
Do you have symptoms associated with BIA-ALCL, like pain near the breast implant, and pain that won’t go away? You should make an appointment with your plastic surgeon or oncologist as soon as possible.
This is especially true for those who know they have an implant included in the recall. You can learn more about BIA-ALCL on the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ website.
If you think your implant is included in the recall, but you’re not having any symptoms, there is no need to call your doctor. But it is important to know the symptoms and pay attention to your health.
If you have questions about the recall, your implants, or BIA-ALCL, please contact your oncologist or surgeon.