3 Questions for Women with Breast Implants

There was a time when women got their breasts done (enlarged or lifted) to make someone else happy. Now, it’s all for themselves – to feel sexier, younger or just more confident in (and out) of clothes. New and better breasts can definitely lead to a sense of empowerment. But caring for them can lead to confusion and difficult decision-making especially when it comes to mammograms.

Breast health expert and surgeon, Diane Gillum, MD, Medical Director of Virtua’s Breast Program, is clearing up the confusion and answering women’s mammogram questions directly.

Will my breast implants get in the way of actual breast tissue and make the mammogram ineffective?

Dr. Gillum says this might have been a significant concern, years ago. “The effectiveness of mammograms for women with implants has improved greatly due to modern plastic surgery procedures,” says Dr. Gillum. “This includes techniques that now put the implant under the chest wall muscle instead of on top of it. Plus, newer plastic surgery procedures tend to reduce the level of scarring around the implants to prevent hardening of surrounding breast tissue and allow greater breast movement.”

These techniques help improve the positioning of the breast during the mammogram, allowing more breast tissue to be exposed during the screening. This makes it easier to obtain an optimal mammogram image for comprehensive review and analysis.

Will the pressure from the mammogram procedure rupture my implants?

“Highly unlikely,” says Dr. Gillum. “The risk is very small. So much, it’s far outweighed by the benefits of a mammogram.” Still, she understands why some are initially concerned. “They think about the mammogram, which compresses the breast with such force that it often leaves women breathless,” she says. However, she points out that implants are tested for “resistance to rupture” at a level that real mammogram patients would never encounter.

Will my breast cancer risk increase simply because I have implants?

According to Dr. Gillum, implants alone don’t increase your risk for breast cancer. Your family history of breast cancer and your lifestyle choices have a much greater impact on your risk.

With these facts, it should ease confusion and put fears to rest.

“I don’t want to see women with breast implants stop getting mammograms because of fear,” she says. Like many in the medical community, Dr. Gillum considers mammograms an essential part to detecting the breast cancer—whether you have implants or not.

Dr. Gillum stresses that if you do have breast implants, it’s best find a practice that performs a high volume of mammograms. In specialty practices, the medical professionals will know mammogram procedures intimately and bring a wealth of experience to screening all women, including those with breast implants. 

Updated October 5, 2017

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