Recently the media has questioned the safety of breast implants in relation to a rare form of lymphoma called Breast Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA‐ALCL). Relative to the many millions of breast implants in the global community there are only a small number of reported cases (globally, around 688 reported cases of this rare lymphoma in women with breast implants). Of these approximately 99 cases have been reported in Australia (as of February 2019).

Here are some important facts:

  • ALCL is related to bacterial biofilm contamination of implants that occurs during implant insertion.
  • It is generally observed in women 3-14 years after their surgery and often presents as swelling or a lump.
  • Of the 46 cases reported in Australia, the TGA has advised that most of these cases were cured by removal of the implant and the capsule surrounding the implant.
  • Currently available data suggest that the risk of ALCL might be reduced by using smooth implants.   All Australian cases to date have occurred in women with textured or polyurethane implants. In general, Dr Cheng uses smooth implants as his first preference for all primary breast augmentation patients.
  • Dr Cheng’s surgical technique is aimed at preventing the formation of biofilm and he has demonstrated this by committing to the 14 point plan that has been developed for surgeons to help reduce the risk of infection in breast implantation surgery.
  • Your consultation is an opportunity to discuss all risks associated with surgery including the choice of implant and the steps your surgeon takes to avoid bacterial contamination of the implant at time of surgery.

Some common symptoms to be aware of:

  • Enlargement or swelling of one or both breasts, or
  • A lump

If you notice any of these symptoms you should seek medical advice as soon as possible.

How is ALCL diagnosed?

  • Your doctor or surgeon will request an ultrasound scan to see if the swelling is due to fluid collection. If fluid is present it will be removed and sent to the laboratory for analysis. Most fluid collections are not ALCL, but the laboratory test will be able to tell for sure.

Want more information?

More details are available from the Australian Government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration website.


Dr Eddie Cheng is a board certified Specialist Plastic Surgeon in Brisbane, Australia.  Socialise with us @arplasticsurgery to learn more about Dr Eddie Cheng and our Team. This information was compiled based on information from  The Therapeutic Goods Association TGA Website



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