Breast Cancer and Implants

Breast Cancer and Implants


Over the last century, significant progress has been made regarding the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer: a malady that affects over 1.5 million women each year. Despite all this, the exact causes of the disease and the methods to prevent it are not fully known, causing the birth of numerous controversy and myths. And when breast augmentation with implants is added to the picture, the internet becomes flooded with myths and false information.
Even if breast implants have been in use since the 20th century (initially for medical purposes and then for aesthetic reasons), plenty of myths surround this topic, making it difficult for a future patient to know what is true and what is false. Nowadays we see an increase in the number of women undergoing breast augmentation with implants year after year. However, there are plenty of details about the procedure and the implants that are not fully known.
The lack of correct information related to mammary implants makes them a subject of controversy. An awareness campaign for women interested in the procedure is necessary. Today we will try to bust the myths related to breast cancer and implants once and for all so we can leave our fears behind and take a step towards the body of our dreams.

Myths about silicone implants

There are numerous myths related to silicone implants. They range from something that can be seen as a bad joke (e.g. “they keep you floating while in water”) to something that can cause real concern.
1. Silicone implants cause allergic reactions
There are no known demonstrated allergies to the type of silicone used for implants. There are no studies to have shown this. The implants are made of an inert material that does not cause allergies. Of course, there might be cases of women allergic to silicone, but these would be exceptionally rare exceptions from the rule.
2. Silicone implants cause breast cancer
The truth is that mammary implants have been primarily used for women who have been affected by cancer (mastectomy). The implants are used for reconstructive purposes. Nowadays, women who have lost a part or a whole breast during a mastectomy intervention can have breast reconstruction surgery with implants. It has been scientifically proven that both women with silicone implants and women without implants show equal risks of developing breast cancer. Breast cancer can be triggered by other causes such genetic predisposition, irradiations, precocious puberty and late menopause, among other things. The silicone doesn’t cause cancer, and this is not dependent on the type of implant to be used. Some breast implants are of high quality (the shell is resistant which can confer them the so-called life warranty), while others are of moderate quality.

Silicone implants and breast cancer

The material used for most mammary implants is silicone, an inert and non-allergenic substance. In France, the silicone implants were banned from 1994 to 2001 as it was believed to be associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer. But during this time, numerous studies have been performed, and they all showed that there is no link between the occurrence of breast cancer and the presence of breast implants. Hence, there was no tangible scientific evidence that can confirm an increase in breast cancer rate in women with silicone implants. Now, silicone implants are used all over the world with a high satisfaction and success rate. Researchers from many countries have studies breast implants and their connection to breast cancer and the results were similar: there isn’t an increased risk to develop mammary cancer if you have breast implants.
In the United States, it is the FDA that regulates the implant market. In 2011 they investigated the relation between mammary implants and another type of cancer: lymphoma or cancer of the lymphatic system. This is a very rare disease, and until today there is a link and small risk of breast implants and rare lymphoma. There is no risk for the common intraductal carcinoma and breast implants. The FDA discovered that out of 10 million women who had a breast augmentation with implants around the world, there were only 60 cases of lymphoma diagnosed. More studies show that there are no survival rate differences between patients without silicone implants and those who had a breast augmentation with implants. However, it is advisable to be checked regularly, at least once a year. Indeed, the presence of an implant may impede the reading of a traditional mammogram and must, therefore, be practiced by a confirmed radiologist using appropriate techniques.
What you should know is that the breast augmentation with implants is not a risk-free intervention. There are several complications that can occur during or after the procedure is performed. Among them, capsular contracture is one of the specific complications, which is a thickness and hardening of the fibrous tissue around the implant that can deform the implant and even cause pain. Despite the risks associated with any type of plastic surgery intervention, breast cancer is not one of the complications that can occur after a breast augmentation surgery.

Mammograms after a breast augmentation

The mammogram is a screening recommended to be performed once a year for women over 40 years old, whether they have breast implants or not. Its purpose is to determine whether there are any breast formations that need further investigations. For women having breast implants and reasons to believe their implants might have ruptured, an MRI scan is also mandatory.
During mammography in a woman who has breast implants, the technologists take care to use minimal compression on the prostheses. Although very unlikely, implant rupture or an increase in existing silicone leakage remains possible. The main cause of broken prostheses remains to be the aging of the prostheses.
Special techniques may be required to avoid excessive compression of the prosthesis and a better view of the mammary gland. Thus, more films and exposure may be needed. This slightly increases the radiation risk which remains very low. The technique used to screen women with breast implants is called Eklund. In spite of these modern techniques, it is possible that the prostheses hide certain regions of the breast that will remain impossible to evaluate by the radiologist.
Numerous research has shown that breast implants do not increase the risk of developing mammary cancer and don’t interfere with discovering a potential cancer. However, they can interfere with the results of a mammography. This is why it is important that when you have your screening performed, choose a specialized center that is used to dealing with patients with implants. Before the mammogram is performed, make sure to tell the technician that you have breast implants, so he knows to use specific pressures and techniques.

Tips for breast augmentation with implants:

While it has been demonstrated that breast implants don’t cause breast cancer, there are other complications that can occur after the surgery. To make sure you have a safe recovery and good aesthetic results, here are some tips for you:
– Don’t choose overly large implants. They are always linked to complications such as chronic back, neck and shoulder pain, unaesthetic scars and breast sagginess in time.
– Follow your plastic surgeon’s recommendations before and after the surgery to avoid unnecessary complications. Take all the tests recommended to eliminate any potential contraindication for the surgery.
– Avoid sun exposure on the area for at least six months post-operatively.
– The post-operative massage is mandatory to help your breasts get into their new positions quickly and to avoid the development of capsular contracture.
– Schedule your follow up consultations after the surgery and go see your doctor as he can determine whether you are facing any complications.
– You should have a mammogram annually a year after you get your implants. If the results of the mammogram are not conclusive, ask for additional screening to be recommended.

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If you look online, there is plenty of controversy around the topic of mammary implants and breast cancer. Moreover, breast implants were banned for many years in France due to this exact reason: the belief that it is connected to breast implants. However, numerous studies have been performed all over the world, and they all provide similar results: there is no risk of increased rate of developing mammary cancer in patients with silicone implants.

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