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Will Sub-glandular Breast Implant Placement Interfere with Proper Mammogram Readings ?

Hello, Thanks to all the doctors who have guided me to making the decision to get breast implants. I opted for subglandular placement as I am a fitness competitor. My OB performed a breast exam, while all was fine, she mentioned that she I really will not be able to detect any abnormalities in routine BSE bc the implant is over the mammary glands. My implants are modest sized 375 cc. Will this placement interfere w/ mammo screening? I am 31 y/o, does this warrant earlier mammography ?

Doctor Answers (3)

Will subglandular breast implant placement interfere with proper mammogram readings?

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Hello!  Thank you for your question!  This a great question, which is often asked by patients.  There is no link to breast implants, either saline or silicone, and cancer.  All supporting literature has demonstrated this fact and no association with cancer, autoimmune disorders, or autoinflammatory disorders.  

It is known that women are more in tune with their breasts and more diligent with examination and feeling/knowing the contour of her breasts, thus able to identify any abnormality sooner.  Imaging studies of the breasts are similar to imaging without breast implants and cancers are not hidden either by the presence of breast implants.  It is true that with breast implants do obscure a portion of the breast during imaging studies, but with the Eklund displacement views, which should be done when having mammograms with breast implants, there is minimal change.  You can visualize slightly more of the breast in the subpectoral position than the subglandular position.  You should remain proactive with your monthly self examination, annual clinical examination, and mammograms beginning at age 40 (unless family history, as directed by the Radiological Society), and annually thereafter.  If there is anything concerning on mammogram, other imaging modalities would be utilized, including ultrasound and/or MRI.  Best wishes!  Hope that this helps!


Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 11 reviews

Mammograms after Breast Implants

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Mammography can still be performed with breast implants in place. Mammography technicians are trained to use specialized techniques for women with breast implants that help to image the breast tissue around the curved surface of the implants. Be sure to let the mammography provider know that you have breast implants when you schedule your mammogram.

It is not possible to obtain a mammogram by imaging through the implants, only around them. Breast implants therefore potentially do reduce a radiologist's ability to visualize breast tissue completely. This is more of a concern with implants placed immediately behind the breast ('sub-mammary', aka 'sub-glandular' position), so for that reason the sub-pectoral position is strongly preferred.

There is no conclusive evidence which shows that women with breast implants are diagnosed with breast cancer at a later stage than women without implants - which one would expect if breast implants actually delayed the detection of breast cancer. Likewise, women with breast implants do not appear to have a higher mortality rate from breast cancer compared to women without breast implants. Breast implants do not obscure or interfere with patient self-examination or physician breast examination, which are at least as important as (if not more important than) mammography for breast cancer screening.

Mammography is currently the recommended mass screening test for breast cancer, but it has significant limitations due to a high number of false positives (which leads to biopsies when no cancer is actually present) and false negatives (which means a cancer is missed when it is present). The most sensitive and specific radiologic test for breast cancer is a contrast-enhanced MRI scan, which refers to an MRI that is enhanced by the administration of an intravenous 'contrast' agent. The contrast agent helps to 'light up' a breast cancer on the MRI scan when one is present. Breast implants do not interfere with breast MRI scanning in any way.

Michael Law, MD
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 37 reviews

Will Sub-glandular Breast Implant Placement Interfere with Proper Mammogram Readings ?

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There are 2 issues raised here. One is mammography and the other is resting self-examination.

  • Mammography  -  breast implants placed either above or below the muscle will interfere with the ability to visualize the entire breast. It is felt that more of the breast is obscured when the implants are placed above the muscle.
  • Breast self-exam  - I am  not sure if you misunderstood comment from your OB. A subglandular breast implant is positioned as the term describes, under breast gland. Most feel that palpating the breast after a breast enlargement is actually easier than before the surgery. The implant this splays out the breast tissue. I have quite a number of patients can tell me that benign cysts that their OB could feel that the patient could not before surgery became obvious to  them to palpate after the breast implants were inserted.
  • At age 31, there is no need for pre-op mammagram unless you have a strong history of breast cancer in your immediate family. 

Thanks for your question, best wishes.

Jourdan Gottlieb, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

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