Early detection has become known as the best treatment for cancer. To that end, it is recommended that women undergo a mammogram to look for breast cancer starting at the age of 50, or at age 40 if they are at high risk. But you may have gotten breast implants long before you start getting regular screenings. As the age for regular screenings approaches, or if you are planning to get breast implants, you probably have many questions regarding getting a mammogram with implants.
What Is a Mammogram?
A mammogram is an X-ray that uses low doses of radiation to provide a look at any changes in breast tissue. The mammogram doesn’t necessarily show that any changes are cancer, but it can provide enough information to determine whether or not further testing could be necessary. By using a mammogram screening, it is possible to detect cancer before a lump or bump can be felt. When it’s small and in early stages, it is easiest to treat. A mammogram with implants is possible, and you should definitely continue to get mammograms with implants.
The low dose of radiation used in mammograms doesn’t penetrate through breast tissue, so the breast is compressed to create a better picture that allows for a lower amount of radiation to be used.
Mammogram With Implants
A mammogram with breast implants is the same basic procedure for all women, with a few variations. When you have a breast implant (both saline and silicone), it blocks the view of breast tissue so it is harder for the doctor to get a complete and total view of your breast. For this reason, women with breast implants get an additional four photos, two on each breast, to give a better total picture of the breast.
For these photos, known as implant displacement (ID) views, your breast implant is pushed back against your chest wall and the breast tissue is pulled forward over it for a better look at the front of the breast. ID views are more difficult to do and can cause more discomfort, especially for women who experience capsular contracture, a hardening of scar tissue that develops around the breast implant. Mammograms with implants are easier when the implant has been placed underneath the chest wall.
Is a Mammogram With Implants Safe?
Getting a mammogram with implants is safe overall and is still considered the best preventative measure. But you do have to be aware of a few things. First off, when you call to make your appointment at the screening center, let them know that you are getting a mammogram with implants. This way you will know if they have experience performing mammograms on women with implants, which differs slightly from a mammogram without implants.
It is a possibility for both saline and silicone implants to rupture during a mammogram, which is one of the reasons you want to make sure the mammographer is familiar with performing mammograms with breast implants, because mammograms with implants require special procedures. The older the implant, the more likely it is to rupture. Because women often get implants placed at a younger age, by the time you have a first mammogram, your implants are likely to already be older. Mammograms don’t always detect ruptures, which is why routine MRI scans are recommended for silicone implants. If your mammogram does detect a rupture, you will be notified so that you can let your plastic surgeon know immediately.
Another caution when undergoing mammogram with implants is capsular contracture. Capsular contracture is scar tissue forming around the implant. It is hard tissue and can crack when the breast is compressed during a mammogram. As a result, after a mammogram you may notice that your breasts have a slightly different look and feel, and each breast may react to the mammogram differently.
Despite the possible risks, current medical guidelines advise to continue getting mammograms with implants.
Other Things to Know About Getting a Mammogram With Implants (Alternative Options)
Mammograms remain the leading tool in breast cancer detection, even with implants. Ultrasound doesn’t pick up on early stages of cancer, but it can be used to distinguish between different types of cancer. MRI screenings are typically only used to detect cancer in cancer survivors and high-risk patients because it is an expensive technology and tends to produce results that appear cancerous, but in fact are not.
Because breast implants feel differently than natural breasts, it is important that you continue to screen yourself. Become familiar with the feel of your breasts with implants so that you are sure to notice any changes. Let all your medical practitioners know that you have implants, including your gynecologist and anyone who may be screening for cancers.
It can be helpful to have a before implant mammogram, as well as a first mammogram with implants so that they can be used as a baseline to detect any changes in the future. Mammograms with implants can be less accurate, so it is important that you continue to screen yourself and get regular checkups to detect any changes as soon as possible. However, do not avoid mammograms because of breast implants.