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Mammograms for Women with Previous Breast Surgeries

Type of surgery determines whether you need mammogram

Asian woman smiles while undergoing mammogram, after breast surgery.

Type of surgery determines whether you need mammogram

If you’ve had a lumpectomy, breast reduction or breast lift, you will likely want to know how this affects your ability to get a mammogram in the future.

Keep in mind, your breast tissue may be different now and you may have some scar tissue.

Mammograms after a breast lift

A breast lift changes your breasts, which makes your earlier mammograms not as helpful for future comparisons. For this reason, your doctor may recommend getting a new baseline mammogram about six months after your surgery. “This will become the new standard that your doctor will use to compare future screenings against, and identify changes,” says Ayemoethu Ma, MD, breast cancer surgeon at Scripps Clinic and Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center.

“Overall, your mammography experience shouldn’t change following a breast lift. The compression machine will not ‘undo’ your lift or cause your breasts to sag,” Dr. Ma says. “An experienced mammography technician will still be able to get the views needed without causing you undue discomfort.”

Mammograms after breast reduction

A breast reduction involves the removal of breast tissue. Because your breasts change and scar tissue can form after the procedure, it’s helpful to get a new baseline mammogram about six months after the surgery. These scans will become the new standard for your doctor to use when looking at future screenings.

“Your mammogram experience post-reduction shouldn’t be any different than what you experienced before surgery. If anything, you might find the procedure to be more comfortable since there is less tissue to compress,” Dr. Ma says.

Mammograms after a lumpectomy

A lumpectomy – which is a procedure to remove cancerous tissue – is often an option for a woman in early stage cancer. The procedure is also known as breast conserving surgery and an annual mammogram is still needed.

Radiation therapy often follows a lumpectomy. A patient may also elect to have breast reconstruction using silicone or saline implants or breast reduction to make their breasts more even after a lumpectomy.

These treatments can change your breast tissue and skin. For this reason, you should get a new mammogram, sometimes called a surveillance mammogram, six to twelve months after your treatment ends. Your doctor will use this new baseline mammogram to compare and look for changes in future screenings.

“After a lumpectomy, your mammogram screenings will take place as usual. Your doctor may ask for extra diagnostic views of the lumpectomy area, or for additional screenings like ultrasounds or MRIs,” Dr. Ma says. “Ask your doctor if you need to get a mammogram every six months or if it’s okay to get them annually.”

Mammogram after mastectomy

If both breasts have been removed via a bilateral mastectomy, then there is no breast tissue to scan and no mammogram is necessary. However, some women who undergo mastectomies still need screenings. These include women who have undergone a unilateral mastectomy, where there is one remaining breast to screen.

“It’s understandable to have concerns about mammogram screenings after breast surgery. That’s why it’s important to choose a breast care center that has experienced staff that routinely works with prior breast surgeries,” says Dr. Ma.

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