Doctor Q&A: Breast Cancer and Implants

A. Foley on 6 Oct 2012 at 9:00am


As most people know, October is breast cancer awareness month, and there are a lot of questions surrounding breast cancer and implants. We tapped into Northern California plastic surgeon Dr. Edward P. Miranda to address the basic, but commonly asked questions:


Does a breast implant obscure early breast cancer detection through mammograms?

Breast implants may obscure mammogram images and full breast visualization, decreasing the ability of mammograms to reveal breast cancer, yet studies show that mammograms are an effective way to screen for breast cancer in women with breast implants.

One of the most important things to note is where the implants are placed within the chest area. Those implants, both silicone and gel, placed below the chest muscle are less likely to block a mammographic view than those placed above. Within the mammogram images, the implants look like white large, circles and are to some degree radio opaque, which may prevent visualization of the tissue below.

If you have breast implants, you can take certain steps to make your mammogram more successful. Find a facility that sees many women with breast implants. Ask your doctor for a referral to a clinic where radiologists have experience performing and reading mammograms of women with breast implants. Also, speak up about your breast implants at your appointment. When you make your appointment and again when you arrive at your appointment, remind the staff that you have breast implants.


Do women with implants experience higher incidences of breast cancer?

No, there is no scientific evidence to show that either saline or silicone breast implants increase breast cancer risk. In fact, many studies have found that breast cancer incidence in women who have had implants is actually lower than that of the general female public.


When cancer is found in women with breast implants, is the disease at a later stage?

No, there’s no evidence that breast implants result in more advanced disease at diagnosis compared with women without augmentation.


Anything else to share with the RealSelf community?

If you're considering implants, know that the FDA doesn't think there’s enough evidence to discourage women from implant reconstruction. If you have a breast implant, be reassured by the FDA's advice about implants. Still, don't hesitate to call your doctor if you're concerned. Absolutely call your doctor if you have symptoms or problems with your implant, such as pain, lumps, swelling, or asymmetry.


If you're considering or have had breast implants, did breast cancer detection play a role in the decision making process? Let's us know in the comments below! 


photo credit: vukphoto | deposit photos