Women may choose to have an implant following surgery for breast cancer, or to increase breast size. There are several different types and sizes of implants.
An implant consists of an envelope made of synthetic material and filled with saline (purified salt water) or silicone gel. Q: Do breast implants alter the risk of breast cancer?
A: Women with implants have the same risk of developing breast cancer as those without implants – a lifetime risk of 1 in 12.
Q: What are the implications of silicone in the body?
A: There is no evidence that silicone causes breast cancer or is related in any way to breast cancer.
Silicone is often found in our blood because of our lifestyle and the environment.
Recent studies indicate that the incidence of diseases (including auto-immune disease) is no greater in women with implants than in other women. Q: If I have an implant, what can I do about detecting breast cancer?
Q: What are the limitations of mammography with implants?
- A screening mammogram is the single most effective means of detecting breast cancer at an early stage.
- Mammography is a low dose x-ray of the breast, using compression.
- For women with implants there are special techniques to maximise the amount of tissue imaged.
- Mammography is not designed for assessing an implant itself.
- Women aged 40 and over should consider regular screening mammography.
- Women with a family history of breast cancer may need to commence screening earlier.
Q: What are the risks of Mammography with implants?
- Implants may make detection of small breast cancers more difficult.
- It is not possible to gain an x-ray image of all the breast tissue. Some tissue may be concealed by the implant.
- The amount of tissue imaged will depend on how far the breast tissue can be drawn away from the implant.
- Mammography may be technically more difficult if the capsule around the implant is tight.
- The amount of tissue imaged will vary from woman to woman.
A: The body’s normal reaction to an implant is to form a fibrous capsule around it. This capsule may tighten over time. If it does tighten, there is a small risk that compression during mammography may tear the capsule. The compression is highly unlikely to damage the implant itself.
If there is undetected deterioration of the implant envelope, compression may cause silicone to be pushed out of the implant. However, this would be a rare occurrence. The silicone is usually held in place by the surrounding tissue.
If you have any concerns, discuss them with the doctor or clinic staff before you have your mammogram.
Ultrasound imaging uses sound waves, by passing a flat probe across the breast. Compression is not necessary. Ultrasound provides further diagnostic information if an abnormality is noted during mammography or physical examination.
Ultrasound is useful for women in whom mammography is unsuitable.
Ultrasound is not as effective as mammography in screening for some types of breast cancer. It does not detect the specific kinds of early breast cancer which can only be seen with mammography.
For some women, both mammography and ultrasound are necessary.
Neither mammography nor ultrasound will detect all types of breast cancer.
Ultrasound will almost always show the presence of a leak (of silicone) within the breast, but will not provide information about the condition of the envelope. Breast self-examination
If you notice any changes in your breast, discuss them with your doctor or clinic staff where you have your mammogram.