Many women who get breast implants do so years before needing yearly mammograms for breast cancer. These screenings are generally recommended starting at age 40 unless your doctor determines you need them sooner due to a family history of breast cancer. The guidelines are the same whether you have breast implants or not.
When you choose your radiography center, we recommend choosing one where physicians and staff are trained in the best techniques to capture and read mammograms for women with breast implants. Don’t hesitate to bring this up with your doctor when they give you a referral.
Do Breast Implants Increase the Risk of Cancer?
There is no known association between breast implants (silicone or saline) and breast cancer. Your risk of breast cancer doesn’t increase when you get a breast augmentation. The two main factors for breast cancer remain age and family history. This is why you shouldn’t skip your yearly mammogram to catch early detection of symptoms and allow for timely treatment.
Your medical provider must know about your breast implants, but it is for proper medical imaging purposes and because mammograms aren’t possible when you have had a breast augmentation procedure. When you schedule the appointment, mention that you have breast implants so they can plan for additional views besides the standard mammogram images. On the day of the appointment, mention your implants again when speaking with the staff. This ensures that you get the appropriate number of x-rays during your screening.
Can My Breast Implants Compromise the Mammogram?
Breast implants can make it difficult for your doctor to see some of your breast tissue because x-rays can’t go through silicone or saline. For more accurate images, your healthcare provider will move your breast implants. Getting your mammogram done by doctors and staff who are trained to work with breast implants means you will get proper screening.
How the technician may move your implant to see the underlying breast tissue may depend on the choices your plastic surgeon made. Breast implants can be set in front of or behind your pectoralis muscle. Performing a mammogram on a breast with an implant behind the pectoralis muscle is more practical to get a detailed view of the tissue. The experience of the radiology center’s doctors and staff plays a significant role in a mammogram when you have had breast augmentation surgery.
What Type of Mammogram Should I Get?
Women with breast implants generally get 2D mammograms with additional pictures to help the doctor see as much breast tissue as possible. This makes a total of eight x-rays per mammogram. The extra pictures are called implant displacement (ID) views, where the medical professional will push back the implants against the chest wall and pull the breast forward over it before compression. This improves the imaging of the front part of the breast.
Your doctor may recommend 3D mammography if there is cause for concern. This type of advanced mammogram helps to spot abnormalities more efficiently, and it uses increased radiation. Breast augmentation doesn’t prevent you from getting 3D mammograms, but this may not happen on the same day as the regular one, as you’ve already been exposed to radiation more due to the ID views. Don’t hesitate to discuss the pros and cons, and the best timing, for advanced mammography with your medical provider.
In the rare case that a breast implant can’t be moved enough to get an accurate image of the breast tissues, your doctor may recommend alternatives to x-rays. Ultrasounds and MRIs can also help detect breast cancer.