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Understanding Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL)

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Patients diagnosed with cancer have legal rights

Any medical device implanted in the body should be thoroughly tested to ensure that it is safe. Unfortunately, pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers often cut corners when it comes to patients' health, and the consequences can be catastrophic.

One such consequence is breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), a type of cancer that can be caused by certain types of breast implants. While this is a very treatable type of cancer when caught early, it can still have a dramatic impact on patients' lives. Our attorneys fight for accountability and financial compensation for those patients.

What is BIA-ALCL?

BIA-ALCL is a cancer of the immune system that develops around breast implants. Although it occurs in the breast, BIA-ALCL is not a type of breast cancer; in fact, it's actually a slowly progressing form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It also should not be confused with breast-implant illness (BII), which is a non-cancerous reaction to a breast implant that can cause a wide range of symptoms.

BIA-ALCL occurs in people who have silicone- or saline-filled breast implants with textured surfaces, possibly because of the greater surface area of the implant. One theory is that the rough, sandpaper-like surface of the implant causes inflammation, which in turn increases the risk of lymphoma. Other researchers believe that the surface of the implant traps bacteria (called a biofilm), which causes inflammation and increases the risk of lymphoma.

The risk is highest for patients with Biocell breast implants manufactured by Allergan because of the bigger, deeper divots on the surface of the implants. In 2019, Allergan announced a worldwide recall of its Biocell textured breast implants because of the risk of BIA-ALCL.

Who is at risk for BIA-ALCL?

Anyone with a textured breast implant has an elevated risk of developing BIA-ALCL, on average eight to 10 years after receiving the implant. These implants are often used in breast reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy. Other patients may have received the implants as part of cosmetic breast augmentation surgery.

What are the symptoms of BIA-ALCL?

Common symptoms of BIA-ALCL include:

  • Breast enlargement
  • Pain in the breast
  • Asymmetry (one breast larger or differently shaped than the other)
  • Lump in the breast or armpit
  • Overlying skin rash
  • Hardening of the breast
  • Large fluid collection

Again, BIA-ALCL is treatable, but it must be caught early. If you experience any of these symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible for an evaluation. Diagnosing BIA-ALCL may involve a physical examination, an ultrasound, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test, and a needle biopsy.

How is BIA-ALCL treated?

Treatment for BIA-ALCL depends on the stage of the disease and whether it has spread beyond the breast. A PET/CT scan will likely be performed to determine how far the cancer has spread. Additional tests may include bone marrow biopsies, blood tests, and surgical removal of lymph nodes for testing.

If the disease is only around the implant, surgery will likely be performed to remove the implant and the surrounding scar tissue. In more advanced cases, treatment may involve chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or stem cell transplant therapy.

Legal options for patients with BIA-ALCL

While more research is needed to determine exactly how certain breast implants increased the risk of developing lymphoma, it is clear that there is a link between textured implants and BIA-ALCL. Our attorneys are actively reviewing cases against Allergan and manufacturers of similar breast implants. If you had a breast implant and have been diagnosed with BIA-ALCL, give us a call or contact us online for a free case evaluation.

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