As many of you know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and what better way to begin the month than by discussing breast health? First and foremost, let this serve as a reminder to perform regular self breast exams and to bring any questionable areas to the attention of your physician. If you are not sure how to perform a self breast exam, click here for easy to follow instructions.
That being said, with an increasing number of women in the United States getting breast implants, many are asking if there is a difference in the way a self breast exam is performed. Many physicians believe it may actually be easier to feel abnormalities with the presence of implants but the exam should be performed the same way.
Breast cancer screenings are still done via mammography though many women worry about having the test once they have implants. Dr. Cameron Craven, MD, FACS of Westlake Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery states, "Another common concern some of my patients have involves the chances of their implants rupturing during the mammogram. The overall chances of a rupture is extremely low. There is no reason for this concern to prevent women from getting regular screenings."
As with all doctor's appointments, a thorough medical history is extremely important. Be sure to tell the team of health care providers if you have either a family or past history of breast cancer and if you have breast implants. This is relevant because additional imaging may be necessary. Dr. Sandhya Pruthi, MD of the Mayo Clinic wrote, "Ask your doctor for a referral to a clinic where radiologists have experience performing and reading mammograms of women with breast implants. Ask about the clinic staff's experience when you make your appointment. You'll want to know that the clinic obtains special mammogram views in addition to the standard mammogram images to better evaluate the breast tissue." Breast implants have become so common it is not as though you will be searching for a needle in a haystack, so to speak, when looking for a physician that is equipped to evaluate these images but it is always helpful to know which questions to ask. Dr. Craven went on to say, "It is true that implants can make visibility of breast tissue more difficult during a standard mammogram. However, augmented women can be effectively screened for cancer, they just require additional views called 'implant displacement views.'"
Being informed and educated about your own breast health is the key! Now that you know exactly what to ask for when visiting your doctor, you are ready for your exam.