Updated September 2018
An implant can interfere with the detection of early breast cancer because the silicone or saline may "hide" suspicious lesions in the breast during an X-ray exam. If you're at high risk of developing breast cancer, you need to consider this before committing to a breast augmentation.
How mammograms are performed on women with breast implants
The technician will take special care when compressing the breast to avoid a rupture, while at the same time get the best possible views.
She'll do this by using an implant displacement technique where she pushes your implant back to the chest wall and pulls the breast tissue forward. In this way, the machine compresses the breast tissue, with little interference to the imaging or your implant.
You'll have 8 photos taken, 4 more than those taken of the breasts of women who don't have implants. This means you'll be exposed to more radiation, but the benefit of detecting potential cancer outweighs the risk of additional X-rays.
If by chance your technician cannot capture images of all your breast tissue, or if your breast implant can't be pushed back far enough, your doctor may request an ultrasound or MRI—both great screening tools for breast cancer.
Why breast implants interfere with mammogram results
X-rays used in mammograms cannot go through saline or silicone breast implants well enough to show the entirety of your breast tissue. This makes breast cancer detection more difficult because the breast implants can obscure tumors or lesions in the images.
This is why the experience of your technician matters. A good technician knows how to properly separate the breast tissue from the breast implant—in both implant placement types—to get the best images.
Risk of implant rupture during mammography: Should you be concerned?
Since the breast is compressed during mammography, it’s possible—but rare—for an implant to rupture in the process.
Implant rupture can be reduced, if not eliminated, by having your exam performed by a technician who is experienced in performing mammography on women with implants.
When you call to schedule your mammogram appointment, mention to the scheduler that you have breast implants and ask if their technicians have done this imaging test on women with implants. Then, on the day of your mammography exam, reiterate to the technician that you have breast implants.
Why you need to touch your "girls" every month
Studies show that if you do monthly self-breast exams you are more likely to detect breast cancer early and receive life-saving treatment. So get familiar with your new breasts. Checking your breasts every month will help you get comfortable with the feel of your breast implants. Over time, you'll know which is breast tissue and which is the implant. You'll be quick to notice any changes in your breasts.
How you examine your breasts will be slightly different from women who don't have implants, though.
Speak to your plastic surgeon to have him instruct you on how to perform the exam and distinguish the difference between your implant and your breast tissue.
Want to know more about getting a mammogram with implants?
If you have questions or want to learn more about getting a mammogram with implants, ask our network of board-certified plastic surgeons. They can give you more insight. Go on, try it!
Mammograms for Women with Breast Implants. American Cancer Society. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/mammograms/mammograms-for-women-with-breast-implants.html
6 Questions to Ask About Breast Implants and Mammograms. (2017). Center for Diagnostic Imaging. Retrieved from https://www.mycdi.com/viewpoints/6_questions_to_ask_about_breast_implants_and_mammograms_176
Pruthi S. Can breast implants make it harder to find breast cancer during mammography? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/mammogram/expert-answers/breast-implants/faq-20057926