Mammograms for Breast Augmentation Patients

Despite the possibility of your implant rupturing from the pressure, doctors still recommend that women who have undergone a breast augmentation have a mammogram.

Women who are considering breast augmentation should be aware that implants can interfere with finding breast cancer during a mammogram. This is because the implant shows up as a solid white shape, obscuring tumors above or below. In addition to making tumors more difficult to detect, implants cause “false positive” results as well when extensive scarring and calcium deposits mimic the appearance of cancer, making the deposits difficult to distinguish from tumors on a mammogram. Biopsy may be necessary to determine whether these are cancerous.

Specific mammogram techniques have been developed to ensure that as much breast tissue as possible is examined in women who have undergone breast augmentation surgery. This requires taking extra images, called displacement views, which expose the woman to more radiation.

In 2004, Miglioretti and her colleagues published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicating that 55% of breast tumors were not initially detected on mammograms for women who have undergone breast augmentation surgery, although the extra images were used.

This compares to about 30% of tumors that were not initially detected for women who did not have breast augmentation surgery. These tumors were subsequently detected in later mammograms.

Another problem is that calcium deposits can be seen on mammograms and can be mistaken for possible cancer, resulting in additional surgery to biopsy or remove the implant to distinguish these deposits from cancer. Calcium deposits may be felt as modules or bumps under the skin around the implant.

The displacement views do not protect against rupture, which becomes a greater problem as implants age. Dr. Lori Brown, an FDA scientist, published an article in 2004 in the Journal of Women’s Health, indicating that the FDA has received dozens of reports of implants rupturing or leaking during mammography.

Ultrasound and MRIs can be used to detect breast cancer instead of mammograms, but this adds to the cost of screening and may not be covered by health insurance.

The bottom line is to ask yourself if the benefits of breast augmentation outweigh the risks of more serious diseases and complications. No one can answer this question for you, except you and of course, your doctor.

The information presented here should not be interpreted as medical advice. If you or someone you know is considering breast augmentation surgery, please seek professional medical advice for the risks and benefits of this type of surgery.