HSE Warns Irish Women With Breast Implants Of Possible Health Scares

The HSE is asking patients with breast implants to be aware of the signs and symptoms of a rare form of cancer called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).

The potentially carcinogenic product hasn't been used in Irish procedures since December 2018.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the HSE has warned patients with breast implants to be aware of the signs and symptoms of a rare form of cancer by the name of breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).

According to the HSE, "most cases of BIA-ALCL have been in patients with implants or who have had tissues expanders manufactured by Allergan with a surface called BIOCEL."

These implants and expanders have not been used in Ireland since December 2018, therefore those who have undergone breast augmentation surgery since then should not be affected. 

While the cancer is related to breast implants, is not breast cancer, rather a cancer of the immune system.

Public and private hospitals in Ireland are currently identifying patients who have had implant surgery in their hospitals.

They will be writing directly to people who have breast implants or have had tissue expanders to advise them of the signs and symptoms and to offer advice and guidance. 

‘The purpose of the letter is to inform people about this condition and to ensure that individuals with implants are familiar with the symptoms and signs so they know when they should go and get a check-up, 'Dr Vida Hamilton, HSE National Clinical Advisor and Group Lead, Acute Operations said.

'If you have no symptoms or signs there is no need for any action on your part.'

The signs and symptoms are described as follows by the HSE:

  • Swelling: Early symptoms of BIA-ALCL include a new and distinct swelling of the breast; you would notice this as a substantial change in the size of the affected breast which comes on rapidly over several days or weeks. This breast might feel tense or firm.
  • Lump: More rarely it presents with a lump beside the breast implant which may or may not be associated with lumps or glands in the armpit on the same side.

Nevertheless, the cancer is rare, and the risk is described as "low."

International medical experts have reviewed all the information about this condition and they do not recommend that people should have their implants removed except as part of the treatment for the condition in the rare instance that it occurs.

What to do: 

  • The HSE advises everyone to be breast aware - this means checking your breasts regularly and knowing what is normal for you so that if any unusual changes occur, you will recognise them.
  • Women aged 50-67 should also attend Breast Check, the national breast screening programme when an appointment is offered.
  • If you are currently a patient in our hospital’s 5-year follow-up programme they will discuss the signs and symptoms with you at your next appointment if you have questions.
  • If you are scheduled to have breast implant surgery please discuss the risks and benefits with your surgeon to ensure you are making an informed decision. 
  • If you are concerned that you have a breast lump or swelling, please contact the hospital in which you had your surgery or your GP.

For more information, visit the HSE's designated website

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