BIA-ALCL: Frequently Asked Questions

BIA-ALCL: Frequently Asked Questions

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You may have heard about a recent study that shows that breast implants can be linked to an increased risk for developing a certain type of cancer. This is a relatively new finding that may potentially affect thousands of women across the nation. Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma, or BIA-ALCL, is a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that can develop after receiving breast implants. If you have been diagnosed with BIA-ALCL after receiving breast implants, you likely have questions and concerns. To help clarify some of the information you’ve probably heard, we have put together a list of commonly asked questions about BIA-ALCL and its link to breast implants.

What is BIA-ALCL?

BIA-ALCL, which stands for Breast Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma, is a type of cancer that may develop around breast implants. Contrary to what it sounds like, BIA-ALCL isn’t a breast cancer, but rather a cancer that affects the immune system. When it is detected and treated early, BIA-ALCL is likely to be curable. However, when it is not identified and treated promptly, it can have devastating consequences, including death.

What Are the Symptoms of BIA-ALCL?

The most common symptom of BIA-ALCL is ongoing swelling and pain in and around the implant. Typically, the pain and swelling occurs several years after a woman receives a breast implant and any surgical pain has long since subsided. Upon examination, many cases of BIA-ALCL will have fluid that collects around the implant, and sometimes a palpable mass around the implant can be felt. Additionally, symptoms of BIA-ALCL may include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Decreased or loss of appetite
  • Chronic unexplained fatigue

How is BIA-ALCL Diagnosed?

Women who develop any of the above symptoms should go see their doctor right away. Doctors will perform a physical examination and patients who have BIA-ALCL symptoms will likely also have an ultrasound or MRI. These tests will show if there is a build-up of fluid or any lumps around the implant or in the lymph nodes.

If there is a mass or fluid, then a needle biopsy is typically performed. The specimen that is retrieved is tested by a pathologist to see if it is positive for BIA-ALCL.

How is BIA-ALCL Treated?

While receiving a cancer diagnosis is certainly upsetting, BIA-ALCL is typically treatable and curable when it is discovered early. Treatment for this type of cancer usually follows these steps:

  1. If a patient is found to have BIA-ALCL, the doctor will refer her for a PET/CT scan to see if the disease has spread to any other areas in the body. Whether the cancer has spread and to what extent are indicators of the stages, which is essential to determine proper treatment.
  2. The patient will see an oncologist who will provide an evaluation that covers the staging of the BIA-ALCL and the treatment plan.
  3. Patients who only have BIA-ALCL surrounding the implant will then typically have surgery to remove the implant and the scar capsule that surrounds it.
  4. If there are lumps found in the armpit, it may be a sign that BIA-ALCL has spread to the lymph nodes. When this is the case, the lymph nodes will be tested by performing a needle biopsy, or in some instances, by removing the lymph node for further testing. There will likely be other testing at this stage including various blood tests.
  5. Patients who have more advanced cases may be required to have chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and in some cases stem cell transplant therapy.

After BIA-ALCL has been addressed by one of the above methods, and the patient is cancer-free, they are typically required to have tests (PET/CT scans) routinely every three to six months for the next two years. Reoccurrence of BIA-ALCL is very rare when it is eradicated by surgery.

How Common is BIA-ALCL?

In February 2019, the FDA reported 457 instances of women who had undergone breast implant surgery and later developed BIA-ALCL. This type of cancer is not true breast cancer, but rather a cancer that develops and grows around the implant and the surrounding nodes and skin. Typically, with early detection, the implant and the surrounding capsule are removed, and chemotherapy and radiation are used as treatment. In about 90 percent of the cases of BIA-ALCL, the women were treated and were cancer-free three years afterwards. However, there have been nine deaths in the U.S. associated with the disease.

Does the Type of Implant Increase the Risks of Developing BIA-ALCL?

In the FDA report, it is indicated that it is mainly textured breast implants that are associated with BIA-ALCL, with over 87 percent of cases occurring in women with that type. The remaining cases occurred in women with breast implants that were smooth in texture. There was not a lot of difference in the findings regarding what the implants in the affected women were made of. Silicone gel implants accounted for about 60 percent of BIA-ALCL cases, while saline implants were found in 40 percent of the cases. 

What Should You Do If You are Diagnosed with BIA-ALCL?

In the event that you are diagnosed with BIA-ALCL after having breast implant surgery, it’s important that you undergo the recommended medical treatment for the condition, as well as seeking help from an experienced product liability attorney.

At Ross Feller Casey, we have a proven reputation across the U.S. for winning record-setting recoveries. In fact, we have won $1 billion in the last five years alone for our seriously injured clients. The firm is the recognized leader in litigating BIA-ALCL lawsuits.

You may have a strong case in which you are entitled to compensation for your medical expenses and pain and suffering. But your time to file a lawsuit is limited, so you should contact one of the BIA-ALCL lawyers at Ross Feller Casey now for a free case evaluation. 

Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.