Do Breast Implants Get in the Way of a Mammogram?

Mike Wilton

by Mike Wilton | October 18, 2011 @ 08:00AM

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Before and After MammogramThere are a lot of things to consider when it comes to breast implants: How big should I go? Saline or silicone? Over the muscle or under the muscle? But there is one factor that a prospective patient may overlook when considering breast augmentation – the mammogram, an X-ray image of your breast that can be used for either screening or diagnostic purposes.  With October being the commemorative “Breast Cancer Awareness” month worldwide, we asked a handful of doctors what they thought about breast implants and their impact on this essential medical exam.

Mammography plays an extremely important role in the process of early breast cancer detection as it can ultimately help decrease the number of deaths associated with this disease. But when combined with the “It won’t happen to me” mentality that many women may still have and the fact that a mammogram is not a frequent routine, you may not be completely aware that yes, breast implants can get in the way of traditional mammogram testing. “Women who have undergone breast augmentation are responsible for understanding that the presence of implants will have an impact on the detection of breast lesions,” says New York City plastic surgeon Dr. Shirley Madhere.

While having breast implants does not make breast cancer screenings impossible, there are a number of factors that can impact the ease of testing.

According to NYC plastic surgeon Dr. Adam D. Schaffner, “Very large implants, especially if used to augment a small breast, may make it more challenging to screen for breast cancer.”

Doctors also point out that larger breast implants can oftentimes make mammograms more painful, and in many cases may require an alternative treatment such as thermography, ultrasound, or MRI scanning. These methods are not standard, but are sometimes necessary to get better imagery of the breast tissue.

The placement of a breast implant can also create problems. Doctors point out that breast implants placed above the muscle may make breast cancer screening more challenging; therefore, it is better to place the implant beneath the muscle, a technique that many plastic surgeons favor.

Because of the number of difficulties that can arise with breast implants during a mammogram, Dallas plastic surgeon Dr. David Morales suggests that women get an initial screening before they have breast augmentation surgery.  This gives a baseline for the test and can be used as a reference in future screenings.

New York City cosmetic surgeon Dr. Mauro C. Romita went as far as to recommend that patients seek out physicians who specialize in mammograms for women with breast implants. Because of their experience with testing patients with breast implants it can make detection easier, and oftentimes they are more familiar with specific techniques that can provide the best possible visibility of the breast tissue.  “It is beneficial to go to a physician that specializes in mammograms for women that have breast implants,” he says.  “I have a specific physician I send all my patients that have breast implants

to.”  And even if you can’t find a physician who specializes in breast implants, “Always make sure that you specify before the treatment that you have breast implants, this way they are prepared,” he adds.

Early detection is key – with or without implants. So be sure to learn about your risks for breast cancer and take the necessary steps to ensure optimum health.

Image by kristiewells

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