Breast Cancer Detection with Breast Implants

A Guide to Breast Cancer Detection with Implants

The human body is made up of trillions of living cells which regularly grow, replicate, divide and die. Cancer is the abnormal, rampant growth of cells in a specific area. The abnormal growth of the cells affect the surrounding tissues in the effected area. Breast cancer is the abnormal growth of the tissues of the breast, specifically the ducts and lobules, which primarily function to deliver milk.

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is second only to skin cancer as the most common cancer among women in the U.S. Current data has measured that:

  • nearly 1-in-8 women may experience invasive breast cancer in her lifetime.
  • breast cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths among women
  • breast cancer rates are declining due to better detection and treatment

The American Cancer Society says there are 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. The organization itself has helped more than 4 million women receive breast cancer screenings.

Breast Implants and Cancer Detection

Through breast exams and early detection screenings, you can put yourself in a position to minimize risk. You also give yourself the gift of saving your breasts.

Things you can do to take a proactive approach to managing breast health with or without breast implants include:

  • Self exams – Perform monthly breast self exams (see pointers below)
  • Mammograms – Scheduled yearly at 40+ or if there’s a family history of cancer
  • Getting tested – Consider tests for BRCA1, BRCA2 and other breast cancer genes
  • Hormones – Have your hormone levels checked, esp. estrogen and progesterone
  • Lifestyle – Exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, and limit alcohol and fat intake

Early detection may even help you avoid late-stage breast cancer altogether. The earlier you find something, the higher chance you have to beat it. The early detection of breast cancer may also eliminate a need for:

  • Emotionally and physically painful surgeries
  • Loss of breast tissue in one or both breasts
  • Radiation treatment and/or chemotherapy
  • Otherwise avoidable pain and suffering
  • Emotional and physical scarring

It’s also been said that bearing children before 30, making a 1.5 – 2 year commitment to breast feeding, and limiting estrogen or progesterone-based contraceptives use can help. Consider tapering off estrogen or progesterone-based hormone therapy after menopause, too.

Women who regularly get mammograms and perform self breast exams are said to have a 90 percent chance of surviving breast cancer once it’s detected. That’s great incentive to do both, right?

Women with breast implants have different breasts; therefore, the cancer screening is different. Healthcare professionals, examiners and women need to be aware of how breast implants can impact a breast cancer screening test.

Mammograms with Breast Implants

On behalf of the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Sandhya Pruthi responded to whether breast implants interfere with breast cancer detection during a mammogram, saying, “Breast implants can obscure mammogram images, decreasing the ability of mammograms to reveal breast cancer. Still, studies show that mammograms are an effective way to screen for breast cancer in women with breast implants.”

Though implants might obscure images, there are a number of ways you can ensure more accurate results of a mammogram with breast implants. If you don’t have implants yet, get a mammogram prior to your surgery so you have a baseline for your natural breasts.

If you already undergone breast augmention with implants and are going for your first mammogram, ask around before scheduling. Get recommendations from people you trust. While you’re at it, go to the source! Ask your breast augmentation plastic surgeon or his or her staff members for a referral.

Once you’ve found a facility that serves a high number of women with breast implants, make your implant status known. Mention them when scheduling your appointment, when you arrive, and when meeting your technician.

You should also ask for a technician who has experience working with women with implants. Experienced technicians will make the experience more comfortable and reduce your risk for implant rupture.

Be sure to get multiple vantage points during the mammogram so the results show a clear view of the breast tissue around the breast implant. Some technicians specialize in or are highly skilled at performing breast implant mammograms. Experienced technicians know to capture views which fall outside the scope of a standard mammogram and focus on getting the best view for the individual breast.

Breast Self Exams with Breast Implants

Mammograms are widely known to be more effective at detecting small, potentially cancerous tumors than breast self exams and doctor’s office breast tissue examinations. While neither takes the place of a mammography screening, mammograms are typically performed only once a year – maybe not even that frequently depending on your age (<40), family background or medical history. That’s why monthly self breast exams and clinical breast exams matter.

Typically, professional breast exams are performed annually by gynecologists on women who’ve reached 18 to 20 years of age. Statistics show that more than 75 percent of suspicious, cancerous lumps were first detected by women during non-mammogram breast exams.

You can also increase your chances of detecting breast tissue abnormalities by performing monthly breast self exams:

  • The best time to check is 3 days after your period.
  • Feel your way slowly along each breast and along each armpit
  • Don’t be afraid if you find a lump (they’re not all cancerous). And with practice you’ll develop a sense for what feels normal.

The Cristine Meredith Miele Foundation for breast cancer research says to contact your doctor or gynecologist right away if you notice lumps, swelling, skin irritation, dimpling, nipple pain, inward turning nipples, redness, scaliness or discharge other than breast milk. Lumps can be on breasts or under arms.

Other unusual or abnormal circumstances to look for include:

  • Breast tissue that feels thick
  • Discoloration of one or both breasts
  • Changes in the size or shape of your breasts
  • Changes in the feel of breast skin, areola or nipples

Other Breast Cancer Prevention Options with Breast Implants

Previously we shared a story with you about Christina Applegate, a young Hollywood actress who opted to have a prophylactic, or preventive, mastectomy. She underwent this drastic procedure after realizing she was at risk for and, indeed, had breast cancer.

Despite strong opposition, Christina pursued prophylactic bilateral (or double) mastectomy and breast reconstruction with breast implants. To her, a skin and nipple sparing mastectomy with breast reconstruction made sense on a personal level.

Knowing your breast cancer prevention options (with or without breast implants) is critical if you want to make decisions about your own body that are effective and highly personal. Because, at the end of the day, it’s your body we’re talking about.

The following measures may prevent, monitor or minimize your cancer risk:

  • BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing for genetic predisposition to breast cancer
  • High BRCA1 and BRCA2 risk observation and management programs
  • Mammograms, MRIs and professionally administered breast exams
  • Preventive or prophylactic mastectomy and similar surgeries
  • Personalized breast cancer prevention and treatment plans
  • Chemoprevention drug programs (ex: tamoxifen)

While none of those approaches is appropriate for all women, what’s important is finding out what your breast cancer risk level is and doing something about it. Then, like Applegate, you can choose whether or not you want to take serious preventative steps.

Do you want to learn more about early breast cancer detection with breast implants? Your breast cancer risk? Breast reconstruction? Discuss these topics with a caring, qualified, board-certified plastic surgeon who takes your need to know seriously.

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