Can breast implants make it harder to find breast cancer during mammography?

Answers from Sandhya Pruthi, M.D.

Yes. Breast implants, either saline or silicone, can obscure mammogram images, decreasing the ability of mammograms to reveal breast cancer.

Breast implants are most often placed above the muscle (subglandular) and implants in this location can potentially reduce the radiologist's ability to interpret the mammogram because not all the breast tissue can be visualized. Implants placed beneath the muscle (subpectoral) are much less likely to interfere with the radiologist's ability to interpret the mammogram. Still, studies show that mammograms are an effective way to screen for breast cancer in women with breast implants.

If you have breast implants, you can take steps to make your mammogram more successful, such as:

  • Find a facility that sees many women with breast implants. Ask your doctor for a referral to a clinic where radiologists have experience performing and reading mammograms of women with breast implants.

    Ask about the clinic staff's experience when you make your appointment. You'll want to know that the clinic obtains special mammogram views in addition to the standard mammogram images to better evaluate the breast tissue.

  • Speak up about your breast implants at your appointment. When you make your appointment and again when you arrive at your appointment, tell the staff that you have breast implants.
  • If you have noted changes in your breast or if you have concerns, tell your doctor promptly. Your doctor will talk with the radiologist to decide whether you need additional imaging or breast ultrasound.

There's a slight risk that your breast implants may rupture during a mammogram. But the benefits of mammography in the early detection of breast cancer outweigh this risk.

July 19, 2017 See more Expert Answers