Getting a Mammogram When You Have Breast Implants
Dr. Millicent Geers
Mammograms are x-rays of the breasts. These x-rays are then examined by radiologists — doctors trained to look for any suspicious findings consistent with breast cancer. Mammograms are essential for the early detection of breast cancer. In the United States, women are encouraged to start breast screening with mammograms at age 40. If you have a family history of early breast cancer or a genetic disposition to breast cancer, your screening may start even earlier. All women with breast tissue, whether augmented or not, should be screened for breast cancer.
It is important for all women considering breast implants and all women who currently have implants to know that having implants will affect your breast cancer screening. Breast implants can prevent some of your breast tissue from being fully visualized on your mammogram. Implants that have been placed in a pocket behind the pectoralis muscle will allow more visualization of your breast tissue than implants placed in a pocket in front of your pectoralis muscle. Extra views of the breast may be needed in order to achieve a more complete examination of your breasts, regardless of the pocket in which they are placed.
Breast implants are not associated with an increased risk of getting breast cancer. Your risk for breast cancer is tied to but not limited to such factors such as age, being overweight, having a family history of breast cancer, or inheriting certain genetic mutations linked to breast cancer.
On the other hand, the risk for cancer of the capsule that forms around the breast implant is increased with breast implant augmentation. This is capsule cancer is not the same as breast cancer. These cancers of the capsule include breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), breast implant-associated squamous cell carcinoma (BIA-SCC), and other lymphomas.
If you have breast implants continue your routine screening. When you schedule your mammogram, make sure to tell the appointment scheduler that you have breast implants. When you arrive for your mammogram, again mention that you have breast implants.