Breast Exams With Implants
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women after lung cancer. Just under 50,000 people die from breast cancer each year, however thousands survive thanks to early detection with breast examinations. So what is the situation with breast exams for patients with implants? Here our Las Vegas plastic surgeons Dr. Michael Edwards and Dr. Terrence Higgins answer common questions asked by their breast augmentation patients and provide helpful information about mammograms.
How often should you check?
Whether you have breast implants or are natural - it is equally as important to perform regular breast exams. For patients both with breast implants and natural it is recommended that you perform self-examination once a month.
Between the ages of 20 and 39 it is advised that you do a self-breast exam monthly and have a clinical breast exam every 3 years.
Once you reach the age of 40 and up to 49 you should do a monthly self-breast exam as well as an annual clinical breast exam and a mammogram every 1 to 2 years.
Over the age of 50 you should continue to do monthly self-breast exams as well as an annual clinical breast exam and annual mammograms.
Can women with breast implants perform a breast self-examination?
Yes, women can and should be performing breast self-examinations on a monthly basis whether they have breast implants or not.
However, there are some guidelines for women with breast implants when doing a breast self-examination. To help with the examination you should ask your surgeon to help you distinguish between your implant and your breast.
When you perform the breast self-examination press firmly inwards at the edge of the breast implants so that you can feel the ribs beneath - checking carefully for any unusual lumps or bumps.
It is essential that you are careful when doing this and try not to squeeze the valve on the implant too much as this can cause the implant to leak and deflate.
If you notice any lumps or bumps then you should speak to your physician as soon as possible so that they can look at it more closely and perform a biopsy if necessary. During the biopsy, the surgeon will be very careful not to puncture the implant.
Regular breast self-examinations are very important as breast cancer can develop in anyone of any age. Early detection is the key to surviving breast cancer - and many patients who detect breast cancer in the early stages are very likely to survive.
Interference with Mammograms
Mammograms are a necessary process of the early detection of breast cancer. As we mentioned before, you should have a mammogram at least annually over the age of 50 - and no less than every three years below that age.
A mammogram is the most reliable form of detection of breast cancer - and it involves taking a detailed image of the inside of the breast using X-rays.
If you have had breast implants or reconstruction due to a previous breast cancer ordeal then you may have been left with either only some or none of your natural breast tissue. If you have any remaining breast tissue you should still have a mammogram performed on both breasts.
Unfortunately breast implants can cause interference with mammograms. They can make it more difficult for any abnormalities or deformations to be noticed in the image. Breast implants can make it both difficult to take and read a mammogram.
Precautions for Mammograms Performed with Breast Implants
There are precautions that should be taken when having a mammogram with breast implants. During a mammogram your breasts are subjected to hard compression which can potentially cause the implant to rupture during the procedure. It is rare, but still a risk. To minimize the risk, you should ask to work with a mammography technician who is experienced at working with women with breast implants.
Women with breast implants should also be aware that the detection of cancer can be much more difficult in women with implants. They regularly delay or hinder the early detection of breast cancer because they can hide suspicious lesions as well as making it harder to find lumps and bumps in the breast.
During a mammogram for women with breast implants - extra images are needed to be able to get the best possible view of the tissue. However, even with increased images breast tissue can still be missed due to the placement of the implant. As patients with breast implants need to have more X-rays taken, they will be exposed to increased levels of radiation - which can be potentially harmful in the long run.
Is there an increased risk of cancer for patients with breast implants?
Technically speaking, people with breast implants aren't more at risk of developing breast cancer than any other patient. However, due to the increased difficulty in detecting breast cancer in those with implants does make the risk of late detection much higher - decreasing the chance of survival.
Studies have shown that despite silicone breast implants causing scar tissue to form in the breast it does not increase the woman's chance of breast cancer.
The good news is that several tests have shown that women with breast implants are up to 50% less likely to develop breast cancer than women who do not have breast implants. However, bear in mind that tests only date back a maximum of 10 years - so these statistics may not be a true representation.
At Anson, Edwards & Higgins Plastic Surgery Associates, we can't stress enough the importance of regular breast examinations - whether or not you have breast implants. Early detection is essential as breast cancer is much easier to cure in its early stages than later on. If you need more information on how to perform a breast examination - speak to your doctor who can give you the right technique.