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Separating fact from fiction: breast implants, mammograms and breast cancer

Separating fact from fiction: breast implants, mammograms and breast cancer

When you scour the Internet, you will find very disparate points of view regarding whether breast implants interfere with mammograms, which are meant to screen for and diagnose breast cancer. So what’s the truth? Can saline or silicone breast implants make it harder to detect breast cancer during screening mammography?

According to most radiologist, breast implants, whether saline or silicone, can obscure mammogram images. That being said, no studies exist that demonstrate a reduced ability of mammograms to detect breast cancer in women with breast implants. Thus mammograms still remain the most common way to screen for breast cancer in women who have breast implants.

For women who have breast implants, find a mammogram facility that has extensive experience performing and reading mammograms of women with breast implants. Make sure the center knows that you have breast implants, so that they can obtain special mammogram views, in addition to standard ones, to better evaluate your breast tissue.

Ask about the clinic staff’s experience when you make your appointment. You’ll want to know that the clinic obtains special mammogram views in addition to the standard mammogram images to better evaluate the breast tissue.

In addition, if you have noted any changes in your breasts, be sure to tell your doctor – he or she may decide that additional imaging procedures are needed, such as ultrasound or MRI, to screen for breast cancer.

Thus, if you are getting breast implants, you should feel confident that adequate screening tools for breast cancer are still available to you!

What about breast cancer? Is there any link between breast implants and cancer?

The answer is yes, but not in the manner that you probably think. In 2011, the FDA found a possible association between breast implants and anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) — a rare cancer of the immune system. However, this connection between breast implants and ALCL isn’t crystal clear.

ALCL can develop in various parts of the body, including the lymph nodes and skin. On rarely does develop in the breast. In fact, ALCL is diagnosed in only about 1 out of 500,000 women annually in the United States. ALCL of the breast is even more rare, as it is diagnosed in only 3 in 100 million women per year in this country.

The FDA reports about 60 cases of ALCL among the millions of women worldwide who have breast implants. Thus, the number of patients with this diagnosis is very small. In the majority of these women, the behavior of the disease is less aggressive than with traditional forms of ALCL. With removal of the implant and the surrounding capsule, most of these women experience complete disease remission.

Thus, although any association between breast implants and cancer is concerning, we need to keep the risk in perspective. The number of women in the general population who have ALCL is exceedingly low, and the number is even lower among women who have breast implants. In addition, there has been no correlation between breast implants and traditional forms of breast cancer.

Thus, if you have breast implants, always remember that the possibility of getting ALCL is exceedingly small. If you do notice any unexpected swelling, pain or lumps, let your doctor know so a proper evaluation can be performed.

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Tel: 214.827.2814
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