woman slipping bra strap off shoulder

In the 90s there was a sincere scare about the dangers of silicone implants and breast cancer. There were lawsuits, silicone was banned in implants and a cloud of suspicion and apprehension loomed over breast augmentation. But it was all for naught. Since then, study after study has found no link between breast implants and breast cancer, and silicone implants are back on the market. In fact, breast implants may improve the chances of detection in some instances, but there are still important things to understand about breast implants and breast cancer detection if you are considering breast augmentation.

Breast Implants and Self Breast Exam

Breast implants may make detection a little easier during self-examination. First, the implant often pushes the breast tissue out, making it easier to feel lumps through the skin during a self-exam. Second, the implant provides smooth, continuous surface to press against, which again makes feeling lumps easier. While different types of implants feel more like natural tissue than other types, in general, the surface of any implant is going to provide a nice surface to press against when checking for lumps.

Breast Implants and Mammography

Mammograms are simply x-ray images of the breasts. Unfortunately, silicone and saline disrupt the travel of x-rays and obscure the tissue behind the implant, which can create blind spots in the mammogram and may result in a missed diagnosis. Mammographers have developed techniques for imaging around implants to improve accuracy. In the Eklund view, or displacement technique, the implant is pushed back against the chest wall, and the breast tissue is pushed forward and over the implant allowing tissue that would ordinarily be behind an implant to be imaged.

Technology has also changed. Ultrasounds and MRIs are effective alternatives to x-ray imaging, and are generally recommended for women with breast cancer in their family history. As a bonus, MRIs are also effective for evaluating the integrity the breast implant shell which may help identify a problem before a rupture occurs. MRIs and ultrasounds tend to be more expensive than a standard x-ray mammogram, but they are usually more comfortable.

It is best to speak with your mammographer about your implants when scheduling a mammogram to discuss your options.

Silicone Breast Implants and Cancer: No Link

Breast implants, silicone or saline, do not appear to cause an increased risk of breast cancer. In the early 90’s, the FDA placed a moratorium on silicone breast implants because of “inadequate information to demonstrate that breast implants were safe.” By 1997, studies were being conducted that found that there was no causal link and there was no increased risk associated with having implants. In 2006, restrictions on the device were lifted.

The Susan G. Komen website features a very convenient and easy to understand table of recent studies into silicone breast implants and breast cancer, and their respective results. They also have a great list of factors that do not increase breast cancer risk – coffee and cellphones are in the clear!

Breast Augmentation Options at Folk Plastic Surgery

Folk Plastic Surgery in Denver offers both saline and silicone breast implants for breast augmentation, as well as a fat transfer option. In a fat transfer, liposuction is used to withdraw fat from a donor site on your body. The fat is processed for transfer, and then carefully injected to increase the size of the breasts. Fat transfer breast augmentation only offers a small increase, often less than a cup, but it is a process that can be repeated to add more volume over time. While not for everyone, for patients who are good candidates for liposuction and do not want an implant, it can be a perfect solution.