Well Being

Breast Cancer Awareness: Why Your Doctor Needs To Know You Have Implants

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breast cancer breast implants

Breast cancer awareness isn't just about knowing how to look for lumps, though that's important. It's about understanding all aspects of breast health, including some that you may not immediately consider. Breast augmentation remains the most popular cosmetic surgery for women in the United States, with hundreds of thousands opting for implants each year, and tens of thousands undergoing reconstructive surgery following a fight with cancer. And for them, keeping their breasts healthy and cancer-free requires a little more information-which also requires open communication with your healthcare provider.

The first thing to know is that, regardless what you may have heart, breast augmentation has not been linked to greater risk of cancer.

“Breast implants do not increase the risk of breast cancer. Interestingly enough, studies show that women with breast implants have a lower risk of breast cancer than women without implants,” board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Anthony Youn told me.

“It's unlikely that breast implants exert a protective efffect against breast cancer, but most likely this difference is due to lifestyle factors,” he said. However, having implants can make screening for cancer a little more difficult.

“Breast implants do obscure mammography screening, however studies show that this does not lead to an increased risk of breast cancer, a delay in breast cancer diagnosis, or a limitation in the ability to treat breast cancer,” Dr. Youn emphasized.

To ensure that you get the most accurate mammogram possible, it's crucial that women with implants not be ashamed to request additionally images or angles. Dr. Youn suggests that “women with breast implants should tell their mammogram technician that she has breast implants,” because, he says, “the technician will need to take a couple of extra X-rays in order to see the breast tissue as completely as possible.”

A monthly self-exam is also a little different for women with implants which, again, is why it's very important to tell your primary care physician about your surgery, and request that she show you how to perform a self exam.

“Your physician should show you the edge of the implant to allow you to feel around it, making note of the ribs and any unusual lumps in the breast,” Dr. Youn said.

Finding a doctor with some experience in caring for women with implants is an important measure to take, as well. Implants don't increase your risk of cancer, Dr. Youn told me, but they do require some special instructions or considerations in order to ensure that you're healthy and cancer-free.

“There are a lot of doctors out there performing breast augmentation, but not all of them are trained and experienced in taking care of women after they have breast implants.”

Image: OtnaYdur via Shutterstock