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health world

Breast implants linked to anaplastic large cell lymphoma -- but what is ALCL?

January 27, 2011|By Mary Forgione, Tribune Health
(Donna McWilliam / Associated…)

Anaplastic large cell lymphoma. It's likely most people are unfamiliar with this rare type of cancer, but that's about to change. The disease has now been linked to breast implants, raising questions not just about the potential connection but ALCL itself.

 The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday that it was investigating a possible connection between both saline and silicone implants and the risk of anaplastic large cell lymphoma, which is not -- repeat not -- a form of breast cancer.

"Even though ALCL has been found in the breasts of some women with breast implants, it is not breast cancer. ALCL is a type of lymphoma, a cancer of the cells of the immune system. It can occur in many different parts of the body, including the lymph nodes and skin." So said the FDA in a roundup of questions and answers about ALCL.

The roundup also describes symptoms -- long-term swelling or pain near the implant, the development of fluid around the implant and, in some cases, scarring around the implant. Here's general information from the Lymphoma Research Foundation about the disease and treatment.

The federal agency reviewed medical and scientific reports from 1997 to last May and found just 60 cases amid the millions of women who have had cosmetic or reconstructive surgery.

RELATED: FDA explores possible link between breast cancer and implants

So if you have breast implants, no need to panic; the FDA is not recommending having them removed. Rather, the agency advises women who notice swelling, pain or lumps near their implants to consult with a doctor (something women would probably do anyway).

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