Breast Cancer Detection after Silicone Implants

Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, AOCN
Last Modified: January 10, 2006

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Question

Dear OncoLink,
Are mammograms safe to perform on silicon implanted breasts? Is it possible that silicone blocks visibility of tumors? Are there other methods in detecting cancer in such situations?


Answer

Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, AOCN, OncoLink's Nurse Educator responds:

Although silicone implants have not been approved for use outside a clinical trial in the U.S. since 1992, it is estimated that 1.5 million women currently have them. These women are at the same risk of developing breast cancer as the general public and require routine mammograms for screening. Silicone and saline implants can interfere with the detection of cancer on a mammogram. Radiologists have developed a technique to reduce this interference called implant displacement, which basically pushes the implant aside, making the breast tissue easier to view. All women with implants should let the mammogram scheduler know this when making an appointment for a mammogram because the test may require more time.

There are two other issues to consider. Although fairly uncommon, implant rupture has been reported during mammograms due to compression of the implant during the test. Implant displacement can help decrease this risk. The second issue is with self breast exam. Women with any type of implants should ask their surgeon to help them identify what is breast tissue and what is implant, so that they can effectively perform a monthly self breast exam.

There are also studies that are evaluating the use of MRI in the screening of patients with breast implants. This is not currently standard, but under active investigation.



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