Mammograms can be successfully performed with silicone or saline breast implants! Many women worry about how breast implants affect mammograms. They worry that the procedure may not be thorough enough to detect signs of cancer or that their implants could be damaged. Neither of these is correct.
It is important, though, that technicians and radiologists know ahead of time that a patient has breast implants before going to a mammogram appointment. If a nurse or physician schedules the exam, there might be notes informing technicians that the patient has breast implants, but it’s also vital that the individual communicates that with them as well.
The right imaging is required to obtain an effective mammogram. Under normal circumstances with a typical machine, the implants might obscure breast tissue that the doctor needs to evaluate.
Will breast implants rupture during a mammogram screening?
There’s always a risk of implants rupturing, but it’s very low. Technicians are careful during the procedure and know how to avoid such problems by, in part, using less pressure on the machine’s compression paddle that’s used to position the machine. There are also various breast placements to get desired screen captures.
How is a mammogram for breast implants different?
An X-ray for typical mammogram imaging isn’t able to view through the silicone and saline implants to see underlying breast tissue.
A routine mammogram consists of four views taken of each breast. A mammogram for a woman with breast implants includes four additional views of each breast. There are also two views taken of the breast with the implant moved slightly back so a full view of the normal breast tissue can be examined.
The latter X-ray pictures, also called Eklund views or implant displacement (ID) views, involve the implant being pushed back against the chest wall so that the breast is brought forward and above it. This enables better imaging of the front part of each breast where tissue can be exposed.
However, implant displacement views aren’t as achievable in women who have contractures (formation of hard scar tissue around the implants).
Women who have implants behind the chest muscle are easier to get desired ID views.
Other imaging options for women with breast implants
Other options available to women with breast implants include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasounds.
MR imaging can also detect ruptures or leaks in breast implants in addition to providing screening. It’s also beneficial in that this type of examination gives radiologists freedom to acquire direct views of the breasts in any position, since the MRI system changes magnetic fields and radio waves to obtain different views, while x-ray mammography requires re-orientation of the breast and mammography system for each view needed.
This type of imaging also lets doctors easily observe the muscle and chest wall in the area of the breast, which might be key to checking for the spread of cancer. Because the MR device surrounds the patient, some patients may find it claustrophobic and may experience minor anxiety.
Ultrasounds are another option for women with implants. Like the MRIs, ultrasounds might detect leaks or ruptures in breast implants. This procedure doesn’t yield results as high quality as the MRI when it comes to resolution and contrast. It is less expensive than MR imaging, however.
Vacuum-assisted biopsy (Mammotome or MIBB) enables doctors to perform accurate breast biopsies on women with breast implants. It’s a percutaneous (“through the skin”) procedure that relies on stereotactic mammography or ultrasound imaging as a guide.
Stereotactic mammography relies on computers to focus on the exact location of a breast mass based on mammograms (x-rays) taken from two different angles. The computer correlations will assist the doctor in guiding the needle to the correct area in the breast. With ultrasound, the radiologist or surgeon will follow the needle on the ultrasound monitor and move it to the desired area.
The vacuum-assisted biopsy probe is inserted only one time into the breast through a small prick in the skin. Several tissue samples may be obtained by rotating the sampling needle aperture (opening) and utilizing vacuum assistance. The vacuum-assisted biopsy needle is manually positioned between the implant and breast abnormality (lesion).
The health care providers at Pacific Women’s Center are experienced with mammography and the best procedures for their patients who have breast implants. Give them a call to schedule an appointment today.