Will Removing Breast Implants Make Mammograms Easier to Read?

I am a 58-year-old woman who had breast implants placed twice, first silicone and then saline implants about 14 years ago. I am happy with the way they look, but have developed capsular contracture in both. Several times when having my mammograms, the radiologist or tech has told me how hard it is to read them. The implants were placed above the muscle and I have very little natural tissue. Will it be easier to read the mammograms if I remove them?

Doctor Answers 6

Breast implant and mammograms

Hi Carolharr 34610,

Several questions - in need of response.

1."Will it be easier to read the mammograms if I remove them?" Mammogram visibility is BEST without any implants. Better with saline implants under the muscle than gel implants under the muscle and worst with gel implants over the muscle than saline implants over the muscle. Having no implants would make whatever breast you have easier to visualize.

2. "The implants were placed above the muscle and I have very little natural tissue." Removing the implants will NOT give you the breasts you started off with. Once the second set of implants are removed, you will have LESS breasts tissue as some may have atrophied and the skin envelope would have been stretched. In bad cases it is described as a Rock in a Sock look. You must clearly understand that the cosmetic result of your decision may be suboptimal.

If you are OK with this decision, then there is no reason not to do so.

Hope this was helpful.

Memphis Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 108 reviews

Will removing breast implants make mammograms easier to read?

Hello!  Thank you for your question!   While it certainly will be easier to read mammograms without the presence of any foreign body, it still can be read well by the radiologist.  removing them will be your decision for this reason.  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, with breast procedures.  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.  I typically recommend a preoperative mammogram prior to breast surgery, since the architecture of the breast will change.  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!

Lewis Albert Andres, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

Implants and mammograms

While radiologist ahve become proficient in reading mammograms of patients with implants, it is certainly easier without the implant.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Mammograms and breast implants

Breast augmentation is the most common plastic surgery procedure in the United States. A large number of women have received this surgery. When it is time to receive a mammogram simply inform the radiation tech that you have breast implants. They will perform additional views so that they can visualize the entire breast. It is not reasonable to remove breast implants just to make a mammogram simpler.

Pat Pazmino, MD, FACS
Miami Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 101 reviews

Breast Implant removal and mammogram

In most instances, if the implants are removed along with the capsule, mammograms should be easier to read. You should allow a period of healing after implant removal which is typically 6 months or more prior to having your mammogram.

Otto Joseph Placik, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 81 reviews

Surveillance of breasts with implants

Radiologists agree that mammographic surveillance of breasts is best without any implants, however the subpectoral plane is estimated to obscure approximately 25% of the tissue, compared to 50% in the subglandular plane. As you may know, additional displacement views are required for women with breast implants and these techniques are especially difficult when the capsules have hardened.

Discuss your concerns with a Board Certified PS who has an active interest in breast surgery. Some women elect to explant (remove) their implants and the overlying scar capsule, thereby making maintenance easier. However, if you feel that your body image would suffer from removing them, consider another operation to remove the scar tissue (capsulectomy) and replacing the implants under the muscle. Good luck.

Lavinia K. Chong, MD
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 58 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.