Saturday, June 6, 2009

Breast Implants and Mammograms - Breast Cancer Detection is Safe!

CPMC and Sutter Health's

MyLifeStages "Ask the Expert"

Question & Answer


I'm a 40-year-old woman considering modest-sized breast implants. Will they interfere with the ability to detect breast cancer?

Karen Horton, MD, MSc, FRCSC
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
California Pacific Medical Center

Breast augmentation using implants will not interfere with breast cancer detection. Implants of all shapes and sizes have a shell made from silicone, which is an inert solid and is used in many implantable devices. The fill can be either saline (sterile salt water) or silicone gel. Sizes range from 125 cc to 800 cc, and implants may be smooth-walled or textured, round or shaped.

Breast implants are placed either behind the breast tissue (subglandular position) or behind the breast tissue and the pectoralis major muscle (submuscular position). There are proponents for each technique, based on opinion and surgical training. Regardless of the placement of the implant, the fill material and the size, having breast implants does not interfere with breast self-examination, physician breast exams, mammograms, ultrasound, MRI or any other cancer detection techniques.

When having a mammogram, women should inform the mammography technician that they have breast implants in place. A “displacement” technique will be done to help push the breast tissue off the implant and to allow the X-ray beams to shoot through the breast to accurately visualize the tissue. Occasionally, additional views are taken when an implant is in place.

Mammograms are generally not recommended until age 40, as before this age breasts are quite dense and visualization is not reliable. A 40-year-old woman should have a mammogram as a baseline exam before considering any surgery of the breasts, including augmentation, reduction or a breast lift.

Two studies in the literature actually showed that women with breast implants had earlier detection of breast cancer than those without implants, perhaps because the implant served as a surface against which a lump was palpated (felt) during breast self-examination.

Having breast augmentation is a personal choice and should be researched in detail before you commit to any surgery. Make sure you consult with a Plastic Surgeon who is Board-Certified and experienced in the procedure you are seeking.