Being Breast Aware with Implants

Be breast aware with implants

Dr Mark McGovern
Dr Mark McGovern
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and hopefully this reminds women of the importance of regularly checking your breasts. But what about if you have implants? Are there any additional considerations to take into account? We referred to Plastic and Cosmetic Surgeon, Dr Mark McGovern from the VIE Institute on the Sunshine Coast in QLD to give us all the info we might need for being breast aware with implants.

Firstly, the recent media spotlight on anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) and implants has highlighted the rarity of the condition with reported incidences in international studies between 1 in 3,000 and 1 in 300,000 women. By comparison, all women have a lifetime risk of developing some type of lymphoma of 1 in 80, and a lifetime risk for breast cancer (cancer of the breast’s glandular cells) of 1 in 8! Dr McGovern says breast implants do not increase your risk of breast cancer. In fact, he says, “Studies show augmented women to have only 43 – 47% of the normal risk for this killer disease. This presumably arises due to augmented ladies having less than half the normal amount of breast tissue, rather than to any protective effect of silicone!”

However, women with breast implants should be screened as often as you would without implants. The Cancer Council Australia report that 75% of all breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50 so after that age you are encouraged to have a mammogram every two years. Women aged between 40 to 49 also have access to a screening mammogram if they wish.

Mammograms and Breast Implants

Women with breast implants are absolutely able to have mammograms like any woman without implants. It is considered completely safe. However, you should definitely let the radiographer know that you have implants before they start the process. Dr McGovern tell us why, “They will then know to perform a “modified mammogram” and not a “standard mammogram”. A modified mammogram uses much less compression of the breast and involves taking 4 views of each breast rather than 2. This is necessary as the front surface of the implant is three-dimensionally curved and X-rays do not pass through the implant very well.”

You should be aware that there is an extremely small chance that the implant could rupture or break due to the pressure placed on the implant during the mammogram. Also, if your implant has already ruptured before the screening, a mammogram may escalate the amount of silicone that leaks into surrounding tissues. Dr McGovern says, “Be aware that neither mammograms or ultrasound reliably detect breast implant rupture, although ultrasound is an inexpensive screening tool. The definitive examination in assessing breast implant shell integrity is an MRI scan.”

Mammograms are not as effective for some women with implants because the implant may hide or cover some of the breast tissue and any cancers that may be growing in that tissue. You may also find the mammogram a little uncomfortable as the implants may need to be pushed and moved around to get the right angles and positioning.

Mammograms are not to be used as a way of checking if your implants are ok. That should be done by a doctor or your surgeon. Radiographers doing mammograms are not responsible for identifying if your implant/s have ruptured or anything else. If you are concerned you should see your doctor or surgeon. They are the ones who may suggest an additional ultrasound to identify if there are any other issues to be concerned about.

Having breast implant does not mean you have to be more aware of your breasts. All women should get to know their breasts and be able to notice any changes in them, whether it be a lump or anything else. Checking your breasts regularly is essential to early detection of breast cancer and it is commonly accepted that the earlier you detect breast cancer, the better chance you have of surviving it.

Check your breasts TODAY!

Dr McGovern at the VIE Institute has performed hundreds of breast augmentations and other breast surgeries and has women (and men) travelling to him from all over the country to take advantage of his expertise. If you’d like to arrange a consultation or find out more phone (07) 5479 2922.