Breast Implants & Breast Cancer-What are the Facts?

For an elective aesthetic procedure it is crucial that negative side effects are few and minor.  With breast augmentation, the worry at one time was that the implants might increase the risk of the disease. There was also concern that the presence of a breast implant might compromise the diagnostic capabilities of mammograms.  Women with implants might be further along in the disease at the time of detection.  Fortunately, none of this is true.  Nevertheless, many women remain misinformed.

There are lots of published studies related to breast cancer and breast implants.  Some are contradictory.  In distilling the information there is a preponderance of evidence supporting the safety of breast implants relative to the development and detection of breast cancer.

Here are facts:

  • Breast cancer is detected at the same stage with or without breast implants.  Implants do create an obstacle to visualization of breast tissue, but modifications in mammography technique allow for proper evaluation of breast tissue with implants in place.  The test might be a bit more complicated with implants but it is not less accurate.  It has been suggested that in small breasted patients, the implants might actually be able to deliver more breast tissue for evaluation by moving it away from the chest wall.
  • Submuscular placement has no advantage over subglandular placement relative to diagnosis by mammogram.  Subglandular placement may obscure more breast tissue than submuscular but this does not result in a change in cancer detection.
  • The presence of breast implants slightly decreases the risk of breast cancer.  Studies point to a slight decrease in risk for breast cancer development in women with breast implants.  This is a small reduction and certainly not a reason by itself to consider breast implants.  The important point is that breast implants do not increase the risk of breast cancer.  Why implants might be protective in speculative. One possibility is enhanced immune surveillance created by the presence of the prosthesis.
  • When comparing women who develop breast cancer with  and without breast augmentation, the tumors are a bit smaller in women who have breast augmentation.  This means that breast cancer is detected at an earlier stage in women with breast implants.  This probably has to do with vigilance on the part of the women with breast implants who are more attentive to self-examination and so forth.

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