Breast Implant Safety Update

There has been increased media attention towards breast implants and their safety in recent months. The main concerns relate to a rare form of lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). This update is current to 19 August 2019. Further information can be found on the website of the  New Zealand Association of Plastic Surgeons or on the NZ Government website Medsafe.

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

…is a rare form of lymphatic cancer that can develop near a breast implant. To date there have been less than 800 reported cases worldwide out of an estimated 35 million women with implants. This condition appears to be associated only with textured implants and the risk of developing ALCL ranges from 1:3000 to 1:80000 depending on the type of textured implant. To date there are no reports of ALCL developing in a woman with only smooth implants.

Because this is such a rare disease the worldwide consensus is that women who have a textured implants do not need to have their implants removed unless they have other specific problems.

ALCL is not to be confused with breast cancer which is a separate condition that affects approximately 1 in 9 New Zealand women in their lifetime


Research into ALCL is ongoing but the evidence points to a combination of bacteria, implant texture and patient genetics as contributing factors. The signs to look for with this condition are a sudden swelling or enlargement of your breast or the development of a lump in your breast. If you notice these changes please see your family doctor urgently or call our office if you are a patient of our practice.


Most cases of BIA-ALCL are cured by removal of the implant and the capsule surrounding the implant. Agencies around the world continue to investigate the safety of breast implants following the increasing number of cases of BIA-ALCL being reported. All of our surgeons at NZIPCS have closely monitored the information and worldwide research efforts on ALCL since it was first raised approximately 9 years ago. At NZIPCS we recommend smooth implants for the majority of our patients

Breast implant illness

…is a general term used by women who have breast implants and who describe symptoms of illness that they relate to their implants. It is a ‘catch-all’  diagnosis and the list of symptoms reported includes fatigue, allergies, chest pain, difficulty sleeping, migraine, joint pain, hair loss and depression. Of course many of these symptoms will occur in the absence of breast implants but social media is helping to fuel anxiety levels so that it is becoming increasingly difficult to untangle truth from fiction.

Currently there is no strong scientific evidence for a link between breast implants and a defined illness. However we must recognize that some women are feeling unwell and it is important that their concerns are taken seriously. Research is underway to try and better understand breast implant illness


An article published in the journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in July 2019[1]states there is presently ‘overwhelming evidence to support the safety of silicone breast implants…. To the best of our body of scientific knowledge to date, there have not been any concrete or evidence-based studies or peer-reviewed data concerning the formation of a new syndrome: “silicone implant illness”.’


At NZIPCS, we have worked with silicone implants since the 1980’s and have confidence in the research that silicone is a biologically safe product. However, we hear and understand the concerns of women about potential breast implant illness. If you are concerned about having this condition and have been a patient of our practice for breast augmentation or breast reconstruction, you are welcome to call us and speak with our staff about your concerns. As a patient of our practice, we will have all the information from your breast surgery and will be well placed to provide you with information about your surgery. You may also wish to have a consultation with a Surgeon. Our staff will arrange this for you.

Women who have had their surgery elsewhere are  encouraged to see the original surgeon who performed their breast augmentation or reconstruction. If you are not a patient of our practice but wish to speak with us about your concerns we recommend you first see your family doctor and request a medical referral be sent to us that includes all of your medical notes and operative records relating to your implant surgery.


[1]Rohrich, Rod J. M.D.; Kaplan, Jordan M.D.; Dayan, Erez M.D. Silicone Implant Illness: Science versus Myth?Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery:  July 2019 – Volume 144 – Issue 1 – p 98-109

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