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Breast Cancer in Women With Breast Implants

Breast Cancer and Implants Before and After PhotosStatistics show that one in eight American women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, and women with breast implants are no exception to this statistic. A concern that some women have, most notably those who have a strong family history of breast cancer, is if the implants used for their breast augmentation will make it more difficult to discover/diagnose as well as treat breast cancer.

Self-Examinations and Mammograms for Women With Implants

Breast cancers are often discovered by women who detect an unusual lump in their breasts. This is exactly why self-examinations are so important. Consequently, whether or not implants are present, these self-examinations should continue.

Because the breasts have a different look and feel after breast augmentation, women should familiarize themselves with their new breasts as soon as possible after augmentation so that they will be ready to identify anything unusual. It is an accepted fact that identifying abnormal masses is frequently easier when the breast implants are placed behind rather than in front of the chest wall muscle.

Obtaining regular mammograms is also important, though the frequency of needing them does vary between individuals. Typically, this translates to having one every other year after the age of 40.

Implants can make it more difficult to fully evaluate the breasts with a “standard” mammogram series, particularly when they have been placed in a submammary pocket versus a submuscular one. That is why obtaining some additional views for better visualization is often recommended.

Breast Cancer in Women Who Already Have Implants

Studies have shown that breast augmentation patients who are diagnosed with breast cancer have the exact same mortality rate as breast cancer patients who never had breast implants. This is indeed comforting information.

Women diagnosed with breast cancer who also have breast implants do not necessarily need to have them removed for the medical treatment of the disease, including for chemotherapy or radiation therapy. However, they may need to be exchanged in the process of breast reconstruction either because the implants are too old or because a more appropriate size, shape and/or projection is needed.

When breast reconstruction is planned, already having implants in place from a previous breast augmentation can make the process easier and more comfortable, though this does vary depending on a variety of individual factors.

Living Your Life

If you have just been diagnosed with breast cancer, it should be fairly obvious that undergoing a true breast augmentation is completely contraindicated. You must undergo appropriate treatment for the cancer prior to considering a breast enlargement procedure. However, in this scenario, that particular breast enhancement procedure may be considered a breast reconstruction surgery even though one is obtaining a larger breast size.

Whether or not there is a family history of breast cancer and as long as you are not at an extremely high risk for developing it (and a prophylactic mastectomy is not a recommended action by your doctor), you should feel free to pursue a breast augmentation if desired without implant-related fears.

Dr. Steven H. Turkeltaub is a board-certified plastic surgeon who can perform breast augmentation, breast reconstruction, breast revision, and a variety of other breast enhancement procedures to improve your appearance. If you would like to learn more about breast implants, breast cancer, or breast enhancement procedures, Dr. Turkeltaub would be pleased to discuss these things with you in detail during a personal consultation. To request your consultation with Dr. Turkeltaub, please call (480) 451-3000 or complete our online contact form today.