Breast Cancer Patients With Implants Fare as Well as Others
However, she notes, "We found that mammography still missed quite a few of these breast cancers. Mammography is very good in women who don't have breast implants; we picked up 97% of those women. But with women with breast implants, it's still suboptimal. It's something that women who are considering breast implants should think about."
Women with implants must take care to get regular physical exams and mammograms, and should be "compulsive" about performing self breast exams, Skinner advises. These women should start annual mammography at age 40. Also starting at 40, they should have a doctor conduct a breast exam when they go in for annual Pap smears.
Toncred Styblo, MD, associate professor of neoplastic surgery at the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University in Atlanta, reviewed the study for WebMD. "They're basically saying what certainly has been our experience at Emory for some time, that with additional views you can detect early-stage, nonpalpable breast cancers," Styblo says. "We looked at our breast-cancer and augmented women here about 15 years ago and found similar results. In general, mammographically detected breast cancers are cured with treatment, regardless of whether women have implants or not."
One problem, Styblo says, is that women with implants tend to think they don't need mammograms. "They have the same risk as anybody else; the implants aren't going to protect them. A lot of women have a fear, the mammogram's going to rupture my implant. I've never seen that happen. These implants are such that you could stomp on them and they won't break."
Joanne Mortimer, MD, director of clinical oncology at Washington University in St. Louis, tells WebMD, "Women should not be afraid of breast augmentation surgery. There's the whole cosmetic issue, but also there's the issue of reconstructive surgery after breast cancer. I don't want those women to feel concerned about it."
- Breast cancer patients who have had breast augmentation fare just as well in the long run as other women with breast cancer.
- The ability to diagnose breast cancer has improved over the past 20 years, and a technique called implant displacement views allows physicians to see more of the breast tissue in women with implants.
- Mammography does miss some breast cancers in women with implants, so these women should be rigorous about performing self breast exams and should have mammograms every year beginning at age 40.