How To Identify Lump In Breast Implant

It can be much more challenging to check for lumps if one has breast implants but it can be done with some adjustments during mammography.

Checking for breast lump

Lump In Breast Implant: Should Individuals be Worried?

For individuals with breast implants, screenings for breast cancer (and other procedures that are diagnostic) can be a little more challenging than when implants are not involved. Putting in implants and considering everything a done deal is not how it works according to experts. Issues that may appear downstream such as the effects of the said breast implants on regular mammogram screenings are not regularly discussed fully once a female patient decides to undergo the implant surgery.

While it is true that these implants for the breast do not increase the risk of breast cancer development, it does not do anything to prevent it as well. Also, these implants can make the identification of the early symptoms and signs of cancer of the breast much more challenging since the said signs may be obscured by the presence of the aforementioned implants. Around forty percent of cancer of the breasts are detected by examinations done on one’s self, women with such breast augmentation procedures must be educated on how to properly have their breasts checked along with the importance of observing added methods in their regular mammography when they reach forty years of age.

Guidelines set forth by National health authorities recommend that most female individuals have their mammograms conducted once every year and alternately per year for those aged between forty and fifty regardless if they have breast implants or not. However, it must be noted that the National Cancer Institute recommends that patients who undergo breast implant surgery after a procedure known as mastectomy should check with their healthcare professional if there is a need for mammograms after the breast has been reconstructed.

Two (2) Main Methods to Identify Breast Implant Lumps

The two main methods to identify lumps in breast implants are self-examination and mammograms. Below are more details about these two methods:

  1. Mammograms- Since most breast implants are located at the back of the tissue of the breast to give it a forward push, lumps near the surface can be easier to detect. Breast implants, however, can make images from mammograms obscure so individuals must inform the healthcare professional if they have implants before the said imaging procedure. Mammograms are x-rays that are low dosed to allow doctors to check for any changes in the tissue of the breasts.
  2. Self-Examinations- During self-exams, individuals should look for significant changes such as lumps, rashes, nipple discharge, and dimpling. Tumors may also show up in the underarm and the collarbone as these areas have lymph nodes in them. Self-exams are best done when the individual is lying down and with fingers kneading the area being examined in a circular motion.

Things to Consider when identifying breast implant lumps

Below are some things to remember when identifying lumps in breast implants

1. It is always best to inform the mammography technologist or scheduler if they have implants

Patients should say so if they have implants. Inform the scheduler when setting a mammogram appointment. Also, ensure that the employee who will do the screening is knowledgeable in terms of screening patients with breast implants. The mammography technologist will need to address two major concerns for patients with implants. First, how to position the patient, and second is the amount of compression to be utilized. Based on the statement by the RSNA or the Radiological Society of North America, a technologist that is experienced will understand who compression should be carefully accomplished on women with implants in their breasts without any danger of rupturing them.

2. Be Familiar with one’s breast Implants

For those who have had breast reconstruction or augmentation, it is best to be familiar with the new normal of their breasts. It is recommended that if an individual has some implants installed that she familiarizes herself with the said implants. To better understand them, patients may ask their healthcare professional how to tell or distinguish what part is an implant and what is breast Tissue. A study conducted recently found that for women, a lump in breast implant that turned out to be cancerous was smaller in their size. These were found via clinical exams of the breast and through self-examination.

3. On a screening mammogram, implants can hide cancer of the breast

Mammogram x-rays are unable to adequately penetrate silicone or saline. As such, depending on the location of cancer, it can be more difficult to locate when using the mammogram. It can be managed according to experts but it is admittedly much more challenging. There is evidence to suggest that detection of cancer using mammography is reduced for people with breast implants which is only at 77.8% compared to those with no implants which is at 90.7%. While experts agree that mammography has limitations when it comes to patients with implants, the rate of survival is the same regardless if they have implants or if they do not.

4. Extra Images taken should be expected

A mammogram that is regular or standard will only have 2 views and a total of 4 pictures of the breasts. However, individuals with implants on the breast will need an extra number of views per breast. These extra shots are needed to further check for cancers that may be blocked from view by the implant. These are referred to as implant displacement shots. To do this, the breasts need to be pushed out to force the implants closer to the walls of the chest resulting in more tissue of the breast being exposed for the mammogram to visualize. These kinds of shots will need minimal compressing and just enough to ensure that the breasts stay in place.

Bottom Line

It can be much more challenging to check for a lump in a breast implant. However, it can be done and it can be accomplished with slight modifications and adjustments from healthcare professionals. As such, women with implants should still be able to undergo mammograms to identify lumps despite having the said implants.

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