Let’s start with the good news: there is no evidence that breast implants increase your cancer risk. The not-as-good news is that after you have breast implants, you’ll need to be even more proactive about cancer screenings. Your implant will hide about 30 percent or more of the breast tissue on a mammogram, which means that implants can cause detection of breast cancer to be delayed. It’s also relative to size: A larger breast with a small implant has less tissue hidden than a small breast with a large implant. Also, your implant will be more in the way more if it’s placed on top of the muscle (versus under the muscle). However, if you do develop breast cancer, the implants don’t have any bearing on your prognosis (the survival statistics are similar to women who get breast cancer without implants)
If you have breast implants, here is what you can do to keep your breasts healthy and improve the odds of early detection:
- If you are 40 years of age or are 35 with a family history of breast cancer, you should have a mammogram before you have surgery to make sure that you have a solid baseline mammogram.
- The FDA recommends having an MRI three years after you get implants, and then every two years after that The MRI checks if the implant is still inflated and intact and if the breast tissue looks healthy. However, a 2011 study from the American Society for Plastic Surgeons has found that MRIs may not be effective or necessary.
- When you schedule your mammogram, ask for a technician and radiologist who have experience doing mammograms of breasts with implants. Tell them what kind of implants you have, and if they are behind or in front of the chest muscle. You may need more views, or they can do a special technique called implant displacement views to make sure that they see as much breast tissue as possible on the exam.
- Make sure the radiologist reading the mammogram is also experienced in reading mammograms of women with implants, since these mammograms can be trickier to interpret (scarring and calcium deposits around the implant can look like cancerous tissue).
- In addition to having a mammogram every one to two years after the age of 40, you should also have regular clinical breast exams. Breast-self exams are good as well, but can’t replace either clinical breast exams or screening mammography.
- Remember that breast-feeding is thought to decrease a woman’s chances of getting breast cancer. If you have a baby after getting implants, and it fits into your plans, it’s always worth trying to breastfeed.
- All of the other ways we know to reduce breast cancer risk are the same for women with or without implants: don’t smoke, get regular exercise, limit alcohol intake, and maintain a healthy weight.