Breast implants made headlines last year for a link between a type of implants and a rare form of cancer.

This week, the FDA issued an update, the agency noting that it’s seen more reports of this type of cancer, a rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma called anaplastic large cell lymphoma, or BIA-ALCL, which is not breast cancer.

The FDA reports that as of Sept. 30, 2017, it’s “received a total of 414 medical device reports (MDRs) of BIA-ALCL, including the death of nine patients.” This marks an increase up from the previous 359 reports, but the number of deaths remains unchanged.

Additional facts to note from this FDA update:

  • 272 of the 414 MDRs included info about the implants’ surface textures: 242 were textured, 30 are smooth. The agency notes that BIA-ALCL is more likely to be associated with textured implants.
  • The type of implant filler (silicone vs. saline) is not considered a factor. Neither is if the breast implants are aesthetic or reconstructive.
  • In the MDRs, half the cases were diagnosed within seven to eight years of getting implants.
  • They are reporting that the risk that BIA-ALCL might develop is 1 in 3,817 to 30,000 in women with textured implants.


Related: Breast implants guide: Frequently asked questions.


Dr. Evan Feldman, a plastic surgeon in Sugar Land, Texas, told us that this condition is “quite rare,” especially when compared to the much higher number, one in eight, of women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

“Since it’s so extremely rare, I don’t recommend any change,” said Dr. Feldman. “I recommend all my patients perform daily massage/self-exam, and regular mammograms for woman based on normal primary-care recommendations.”

The FDA also recommends continuing regular care with your doctor, but if you note any “persistent fluid collection” around the implant, that could be a sign the implants should be removed. If detected, BIA-ALCL is treatable.

Dr. Dana Goldberg, a plastic surgeon in Jupiter, Florida, agrees that women should keep up with their regular yearly mammograms and monthly breast exams. She says that while some swelling and fluid retention is normal for new implants, if you notice any of these changes in your existing health, you should call your plastic surgeon right away, “especially if it’s a sudden change in an implant more than 5 years old.” 

If ALCL is suspected, it’s best evaluated and treated at a major hospital or breast center and not through a private surgeon’s office so that pre-operative testing is complete and all required tests are ordered for pathology at the time of implant removal,” said Dr. Goldberg. 

Dr. Goldberg also points out that if you are healthy and showing no symptoms that the FDA does not recommend taking out implants as a preventative measure at this time.

If you are considering breast implants be sure to talk with your plastic surgeon about the benefits and risks associated with both textured and smooth implants.

For updates from the FDA about BIA-ALCL, please visit the FDA’s breast implants website.