Understanding The Risks Of Breast Augmentation Surgery: ALCL And Breast Implant Illness

If you are considering Breast Augmentation Surgery, it is very important that you understand the potential risks and complications that can occur.   While Breast Augmentation surgery is considered a safe procedure, there are some women that develop complications and symptoms after the procedure, known as Breast Implant Illness. While there is some controversy surrounding Breast Implant Illness, it is important to recognise it as a possible complication from Breast Augmentation Surgery.  Currently, Breast Implant Illness has no formal diagnosis and is still being treated in some cases as a ‘crazy womens diseaseʼ. This is largely because the symptoms of Breast Implant Illness are very nonspecific and could be caused by a number of factors besides breast implants.

Breast Implant Illness

Breast Implant Illness is the name given to a group of symptoms that can occur following breast augmentation surgery. Many of the symptoms of Breast Implant Illness are vague and non-specific so it is possible that it could be something else causing your symptoms. Therefore it is always best to seek advice from your Plastic Surgeon or your regular GP about your concerns.  Symptoms of Breast Implant Illness can be varied and range in severity from minor irritations to more life-threatening conditions such as ALCL (Breast implant associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma).

What is ALCL (Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma)

Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma is a rare cancer of the immune system.  It is a possible complication that can occur in women that receive breast implants and can occur develop between 3-14 years after the implants have been inserted.  

Symptoms of ALCL

The first symptoms are usually swelling of the breast due to an accumulation of fluid. It can also take form as a lump in the breast or armpit.  Signs or symptoms to look out for include:

  • Swelling of the breast
  • Pain in the breast
  • Inflammation in the breast Lump in the breast or armpit

What is the risk of developing ALCL?

  • The risk of developing ALCL after having breast implants is estimated to be somewhere between 1-1000 and 1-10000.
  • Breast implant-associated ALCL can develop in all women that receive breast implants regardless of whether the breast implant was for cosmetic or reconstructive purposes.
  • It can occur with both saline and silicone gel implants.
  • There have been no cases of ALCL in women who have had only smooth breast implants. All cases in Australia of ALCL have been with women that have received textured or polyurethane implants.

Treatment of ALCL

  • Most cases of ALCL is cured by removal of the implant.  Usually, both implants are removed because if ALCL develops in one breast, thereʼs a risk it will develop in the other breast as well.
  • Sometimes chemotherapy or radiotherapy is needed.
  • In the last 10 years, 3 women in Australia have died from ALCL.

If you would like more information on Breast Implant Illness or ALCL, contact our friendly team here at Cairns Plastic Surgery.  We are always happy to discuss the possible risks of Breast Augmentation with you. We believe all of our patients should be informed about the possible risks of Breast Augmentation Surgery before proceeding.  We are conveniently located in the middle of Cairns, making appointments and check ups easy and convenient for you. Contact Cairns Plastic Surgery today to find out more.