Your breast implants are no one’s business but your own – most of the time. When it comes to mammograms and breast cancer, however, it’s best to let your doctor and mammogram technician know that you have them. The X-rays used for the mammogram can’t go through silicone or saline implants. Since some of the breast tissue is hidden by the implant, your exam will need to be done a little bit differently.
But don’t let this be the reason you skip your annual screening. Different doesn’t mean impossible. While a regular screening mammogram includes pictures of each breast from two angles, for those with implants, additional images are taken to help see more of the breast tissue.
“Implants or not, regular screening mammograms are important for diagnosing breast cancers at earlier stages, which can lead to better outcomes and more effective treatments for patients,” said Denise Reddy, MD, a radiologist and breast cancer specialist with Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center at Banner Gateway Medical Center. “While implants can make it harder to see some parts of the breast tissue, mammography technicians are skilled at getting the best X-ray views. This should give all women peace of mind.”
That said, if you have breast implants, you may still have some reservations or questions about getting screened such as, “Am I at greater risk for breast cancer?” or “Could my implant rupture?”
Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about mammograms by women with breast implants.
Am I at greater risk for breast cancer?
No association has been found between breast implants and the risk for breast cancer. However, in rare cases, women with implants can develop a highly treatable type of lymphoma called implant-associated anaplastic large-cell lymphoma. This is a cancer of the immune system and not a type of breast cancer.
Remember, mammograms remain a useful tool in early detection of breast cancer for all patients, whether you have implants or not. Let your mammography facility know about your implants so additional X-ray can be taken.
Will my breast implants rupture?
“There is a slight risk of rupture, but this is a very rare complication,” Dr. Reddy said. “The benefits of a mammogram and the opportunity for early diagnosis of breast cancer far outweigh that risk.”
It’s important to let your doctors and technicians know about your implants so they can make necessary adjustments before your screening exam.
How is a mammogram different if I have breast implants?
For a woman with breast implants, a standard 2D mammogram includes four extra pictures (two of each breast), called implant displacement views.
“For these views, the technologist gently pushes the implant back toward the chest wall and brings the breast tissue forward and in front of the implant,” Dr. Reddy said. “This allows more of the breast tissue to be evaluated.”
Should I consider a 3D mammogram, also called tomosynthesis, over a 2D mammogram?
While a 2D mammogram uses a single image to evaluate the breast, a 3D mammogram takes many pictures to show thin layers of the breast and produce a 3D image. These views can make it easier to spot abnormalities in the breast, especially for women with dense tissue.
“The X-ray dose for 3D mammograms can be higher than a standard mammogram but it is still well within safety limits,” Dr. Reddy said. “At MD Anderson, we use a low dose technique for 3D mammograms (3D plus C-view) which reduces the radiation dose so that it is similar to a 2D mammogram.”
If you are interested in 3D mammography, you should check with your provider as well as your insurer regarding coverage. While 3D imaging is growing in popularity, it may not be covered in your state.
Where should I get a mammogram?
When it comes to mammograms, experience matters – especially if you have implants. Here are a few things to consider:
- Look for a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence certified by the American College of Radiology, such as the Women’s Imaging Center at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center. This accreditation means that center meets the highest standards and requirements, going above and beyond for patients.
- Consider a center that has physicians and staff who are experienced in the best practices and techniques to appropriately image breasts with implants.
- Find a facility at which you are comfortable. You’ll need a mammogram every year for several decades, so you want to feel well cared for at the place you choose.
If you have additional questions about breast implants and mammograms, contact your physician or schedule an appointment with one of our Banner Health specialists.