Breast implants appear as a solid white mass on radiographic film, obscuring some breast tissue during mammography and other preventative breast cancer screenings. Whether implants impair the ability to detect breast cancer is a commonly asked question. The answer is perhaps not as much as many think.
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery offers that breast augmentation procedures have tripled between the years of 1997 and 2004, the most recent years for which statistics are available. In the U.S., augmentation is now more popular than rhinoplasty and other procedures. Recent research indicates that an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 women in Canada have breast implants, approximately 80 percent for cosmetic reasons.
Women choose breast implants for a number of reasons. While the majority are for cosmetic purposes, a growing percentage of women use implants in reconstructive surgeries after a breast is removed or damaged from mastectomy or to correct under- or nondeveloped breasts.
Although debate as to the safety of implant solutions continues, there are also concerns of how implants impact cancer rates, most notably if they interfere with cancer screenings.
In research led by the University of California at San Francisco Comprehensive Cancer Center in 2006, evidence was revealed that screening mammography failed to reveal 55 percent of breast cancers in women with implants, versus 37 percent among women without implants. However, although more cancers were initially missed, women with implants were not susceptible to being diagnosed with advanced stages of cancer more than those without implants.
During mammography, the breasts are manipulated to provide the best possible views, even for women with implants. The technician attempts to move the implant out of the way in something called "implant displacement." Still, some portion of the breast tissue will be obscured.
A small 2001 study by researchers at the University of Southern California studying women with breast cancer that also have breast implants indicated these women face no poorer prognosis than do those without implants. For the study, the researchers reviewed the records of 5,005 women who had been treated for breast cancer over the past 15 years to determine whether the patients with breast implants were diagnosed with more advanced forms of the disease and therefore had a poorer prognosis. Researchers found no difference in tumor size, recurrence rate or survival rates between those with or without implants.
These findings may offer peace of mind to the thousands who have breast implants. Women who have undergone augmentation because of a prior battle with cancer may find it welcoming to know their implants likely won't contribute to a cancer recurrence.
Women who have had breast augmentation can talk to their doctors about digital x-ray tests, which penetrate more clearly through tissue and implants. MRIs can be considered as an added measure of protection if a typical mammogram produces poor visual results.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun