It has recently been reported by News Corp that some Australian women who have travelled overseas to Asia and Mexico for low-cost breast implant surgery may be at a higher risk of a rare form of cancer known as Breast Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).
There have been 72 Australian women identified who have developed BIA-ALCL, including three deaths attributed to the rare form of cancer. Some of these women had travelled for the surgery.
Specialist Plastic Surgeons in Australia are calling for mandatory input into the Australian Government Department of Health funded Australian Breast Device Registry (ABDR) in order to better track patients and provide early indication of potential issues pertaining to certain breast implants.
Both the Australian government and the opposition support this call. However, there is concern that the registry does not include women who have travelled overseas to undergo Breast Augmentation surgery.
A study co-ordinated by Australian women into this disease shows that Australian women have the highest incidence of BIA-ALCL in the world. While there is still much to be researched regarding this type of cancer, it is evident only for those women who have received the Textured (not smooth) implants.
It should also be noted that contributing to Australia’s high number of reports of the disease is the high quality of medical care, including high levels of both testing and reporting of this disease. Other countries are now reporting similar instances when the testing is more diligently performed and the patients are specifically sought. BIA-ALCL has been linked to both saline and silicone-gel filled implants as well as both cosmetic and reconstructive indications.
While most (85%) of Australian cases of BIA-ALCL are in the earliest stage, women who have been diagnosed with the condition are being advised to have both implants removed. Additionally, these women who have been diagnosed with BIA-ALCL at the early stage remain 100 per cent disease-free after the implants have been removed and a surgical capsulectomy has been undertaken without additional treatment such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Globally one of the main difference between the patients with early disease and those with later stage or more advanced disease is the duration of symptoms. Early stage disease patients present on average with 8 months of symptoms and those presenting with advanced stage disease have had symptoms for an average of 22 months. Symptoms are most commonly an increase in breast size due to the collection of fluid around the implant or a less commonly a lump.
Advice would be not to panic as this remains a rare disease, but also not to ignore symptoms of change in the breast when an implant is in place.
To date, no cases of BIA-ALCL have yet to be seen in patients who have had only smooth-surface type of implants, only those implants with the roughened surfaces have been implicated. There are some patients who have had smooth implants but they have also had textured implants. Interestingly, in another health publication, I investigated a Health Report by ABC’s Dr Norman Swan, citing world-wide statistics that indicate an increase in dental implants that were failing due to infection. A possible causal link to increased dental implant fails was cited as the increased use of rough surface implants.
While there remains much more research to be undertaken regarding BIA-ALCL, Australian women are encouraged to undertake breast augmentation surgery in Australia to confirm the highest possible surgical care, aftercare and the use of high quality implants. By undertaking surgery in Australia, the details of the implants will also be recorded with the ABDR to track and protect the health of those that choose to undergo the popular surgery.
The ABDR is a national health initiation and is designed to work towards having the capacity to track complication rates of all implant devices and to record all types of implant and surgical techniques. If you have any concern regarding your breast implants, contact your surgeon or General Practitioner for a relevant referral.
If you’d like more information on anything discussed in this article you might like to read the press release on the topic from ASAPS, or contact ASAPS on 1300 027 277.