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Mammograms & Breast Implants

March 7, 2012

Written by Christine G. Adamo

Mammograms & Breast Implants

Breast implants and breast augmentation are intended to help balance your proportions, boost your self confidence and leave you feeling better about your breasts – and your body, in general. In short, breast implants can do wonders for your body and mind.

But, gaining a more youthful outlook and feeling more feminine shouldn’t stand in the way of staying healthy. If you want to increase your desirability by adding curves and volume using breast implants, you should know how they can affect a mammogram.

We all want to have the best-looking, healthiest breasts possible. If you plan on getting breast implants (or already have them), read on to learn how they may or may not interfere with your ability to get proper, routine mammogram screenings.

Why Mammograms Matter

The FDA, in partnership with the National Cancer Institute, defines a mammogram as “a safe, low-dose X-ray of the breast”. It is considered one of the most common and effective ways to detect breast cancer and save lives (and your lovely breasts). The purpose of a mammogram is to detect abnormalities or changes in breast tissue.

Women ages 40+ – with and without breast implants – should schedule mammogram screenings every one to two years. If you happen to notice changes in the look, feel or texture of your breasts between screenings, schedule an appointment with your plastic surgeon or other qualified healthcare professional.

Because breast implants can sometimes cover breast tissue, they may make detecting abnormalities or subtle changes more difficult. But, if your technician is properly trained and familiar with the process of operating X-ray equipment while working with women who have breast implants, you can be confident your mammogram will be a success.

Breast Augmentation, Digital Mammograms & More

Just as the materials breast implants are made of have improved with time, so have the options in breast implant shape and size, mammography technology and doctors' abilities to assess and interpret the images they see when looking at the results of a mammogram. But, there’s more to the story than that.

Factors which can affect breast implant mammogram effectiveness include:
  • Breast Implant Placement
  • X-Ray vs. Digital Mammogram Techniques
  • Mammogram Technician Training & Experience

Breast Implant Placement

Some plastic surgeons believe that partial submuscular or full submuscular (a.k.a. below muscle) placement of breast implants improves the quality of images received during mammogram screenings – making them clearer and easier to read and interpret.

Your eligibility for submuscular placement may be influenced by:
  • The size of your intended implants 
  • The “look” or outcome you hope to achieve 
  • The amount of existing breast tissue you have 
  • The point to which your natural breasts droop or sag 
  • The extent of your muscle definition and weight lifting routine

X-ray vs. Digital Mammogram Techniques

All mammogram images are captured using X-ray technology. During a traditional mammogram, the results are then viewed on X-ray film. Digital mammograms rely on those same X-ray images, but they’re stored on a computer and are analyzed using specialized programs. Ask your plastic surgeon which is right for you.

Digital mammograms are said to offer better results for:
  • Women <50 years of age 
  • Women with dense breasts (more tissue, less fat) 
  • Women before or <1 year into the menopause cycle
With either method, you’ll be put through the same steps. Your breasts will be flattened or compressed. While you stand still holding your breath, a technician will take X-ray images. The entire process should last about 15 to 20 minutes.

Mammogram Technician Training & Experience

When scheduling a mammogram, be sure to get the best care possible. Ask if the clinic, hospital or office you’re going to regularly completes mammograms for women with breast implants. Be sure anyone who’s involved in taking, reviewing and preparing your mammogram has the training, education and experience needed to help you.

Things you can do to ensure you get the best mammogram possible include:
  • Ask your plastic surgeon for a referral 
  • Verify mammogram staff training and certification 
  • Explain to them, ahead of time, that you have implants 
  • Ask to work with a technician who’s familiar with breast implants 
  • When you arrive for your appointment, remind them you have implants

Breast Implant Mammograms: Stories of All Shapes & Sizes

The ImplantInfo.com breast augmentation forum is filled with stories of all shapes and sizes. Women who’ve had breast augmentation share their thoughts about breast implants, plastic surgeons, the surgery process and recovery. Some even discuss having mammograms with breast implants.

Rosie, for example, had her original silicone breast implants for 21 years. During a routine mammogram, the technician assisting her compressed her breasts enough to cause bruising and soreness – though Rosie warned her she had implants. A follow up mammogram showed that her implants had ruptured.

Yet, Rosie’s case is rare in many ways. She’d had her implants a long time and they were made of the earliest available silicone. On the flipside, Deborah is new to breast implant surgery. After nine months’ recovery, she found a lump in her left breast. An ultrasound proved she had a cyst.

Thankfully, it was benign and removing it didn’t interfere with her implants. At the time, she received her first post-breast augmentation mammogram. Her breast implants were placed over the muscle, so she expected the process to be difficult. But, her technician took a thoughtful and experienced approach.

She was familiar with breast implants and ensured Deborah’s comfort and safety. In fact, she told Deborah, 50% of her patients have breast implants. The lesson here is that she was well-prepared. Experience helped her do a great job and the results were easy for Deborah’s doctor to read. That made her experience even more reassuring.

Your own experience with breast implants and mammograms can be equally successful. Consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon any time you have questions about breast implants, their relationship to mammograms and breast augmentation.

And, do all you can to take great care of your breasts! 

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