HSE Information for people with breast implants and tissue expanders

HSE Press Release: 9th October, 2019

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). This condition is not a breast cancer; it is a cancer of the immune system.  

BIA- ALCL is rare with a low risk to people with breast implants. In addition, when diagnosed and treated early it has a very good recovery rate.  It has been diagnosed in only a small number of people worldwide. Most cases of BIA-ALCL have been in patients with implants or who have had tissues expanders manufactured by Allergan with a surface called BIOCELL. These implants and expanders have not been used in Ireland since December 2018. 

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. 

Dr Vida Hamilton, HSE National Clinical Advisor and Group Lead, Acute Operations said: ‘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. If you have no symptoms or signs there is no need for any action on your part. 

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.

The letters and the information on the websites, advise all individuals to be breast aware; describing the signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for and what to do if you find a swelling or lump.’ 

The HSE is also advising individuals who have had implants provided in other private clinics in Ireland or overseas to be aware of the signs of BIA- ALCL and to contact their operating surgeon or hospital if they have any concerns.

If you cannot contact the hospital or surgeon and you are displaying any of the signs or symptoms you should go to your GP.

Signs and Symptoms of BIA-ALCL

  • 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. 

It is important to note that fluid can collect around your breast implant for other reasons that are not BIA-ALCL, including as part of the healing process after surgery.

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 beast screening programme, when an appointment is offered.
  • If you are currently a patient in our hospital’s 5-year follow-up programme we 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, please visit www.hse.ie/breastimplants  


Last updated on: 09 / 10 / 2019