Can I Get a Mammogram If I Have Breast Implants?

Eight myths about breast cancer screenings debunked

Woman with breast implants holding pink ribbon symbol before mammogram.

Eight myths about breast cancer screenings debunked

Doctors often hear from women who mistakenly believe that breast implants and mammograms don’t mix. The truth is having breast implants should not prevent you from being able to get a mammogram or breast cancer screening.

Women with breast implants should follow the same screening mammogram guidelines as women who do not have implants, based on their age and risk factors. The only difference is they may need additional images taken.

Current guidelines advise women at average risk for breast cancer to begin annual mammograms at age 40. If you have a family history of breast cancer or other high-risk factors, your doctor may recommend screening with a mammogram or breast MRI even sooner.

Breast implants and mammograms

If you have breast implants, make sure to provide this information when scheduling your mammogram to see if the facility has experience doing screenings in women with breast implants. Both silicone and saline implants can make it hard for the doctor to see the breast tissue in the area examined, so additional steps are taken.

In a regular screening mammogram, X-ray pictures of each breast are taken, typically from two different angles. If you have implants, a few more X-rays are taken using a special technique to get a good image.

A trained technician can ensure a safe mammogram with as little discomfort as possible.

“Skilled mammography technicians work daily with women who have breast implants and are experts at getting the best X-ray views for radiologists to examine,” says Ray Lin, MD, a radiation oncologist at Scripps Cancer Center and Scripps Clinic. “That means more peace of mind for you and less chances of you needing to redo a mammogram.”

Eight myths and facts about mammograms and breast implants

Knowledge is important when it comes to protecting your health. Here are the facts on some common misconceptions about mammograms and breast implants:

Myth #1: Implants cover up breast tissue so there’s no point in getting a mammogram.

Fact: Mammography technicians know exactly what to do to get X-rays that show as much breast tissue as possible. They will gently push the implant back against your chest wall and pull your breast tissue forward and over it. These extra X-ray pictures are called implant displacement views and capture better images of the front part of each breast.

Myth #2: Women with breast implants get too much radiation exposure during mammograms.

Fact: Today’s mammography machines use low radiation doses to take X-rays. If you have breast implants, you will need those extra X-ray pictures, but this should not pose any danger to you. “Radiation exposure goes up but just slightly. You will still be well within safe limits,” Dr. Lin says.

Studies show that the low levels of radiation from mammograms do not significantly increase your risk of cancer. “It’s far more dangerous to skip the mammogram and have undetected cancer,” Dr. Lin adds.

Myth #3: Implants can rupture during a mammogram screening.

Fact: It’s rare to experience a rupture during a screening. The chances are even lower when you choose a facility that routinely screens women with implants.

Myth #4: Women who get implants after mastectomies don’t need mammograms.

Fact: It depends on the type of mastectomy. If both breasts have been removed, then there is no breast tissue to scan. You can skip mammograms.

Some women still need screenings. These include women who have undergone:

  • Unilateral mastectomy, where there is one remaining breast to screen.
  • Nipple-sparing mastectomy, where the nipples and a small amount of breast tissue need to be screened.

Myth #5: Women who have breast implants can’t get 3D mammogram screenings.

Fact: They can, but if you’re concerned about increased radiation you should talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of 3D mammography if you have implants.

Three-dimensional (3D) mammography, or breast tomosynthesis, is an advanced type of mammography. It involves taking pictures of thin layers of your breast from different angles to form a 3D image of your breast. These views make it easier to spot abnormalities.

The reason some doctors don’t recommend 3D mammograms for women with breast implants is that X-ray machines use a slightly higher dose of radiation, and you’re already receiving extra radiation exposure due to additional implant displacement pictures.

Related tags: