Women with breast implants
Screening mammography for women with implants
Women 50 years or over have a FREE screening mammogram every two years.
BreastScreen WA provides FREE screening mammograms to women 40 years or over with no breast symptoms, and specifically targets women aged 50 to 74 years.
If you have breast implants, this information may answer some of your questions about having a screening mammogram.
What is a breast implant?
Breast implants (also called breast prostheses) are inserted to enlarge or change the shape of the breasts or to reconstruct the breast following surgery for breast cancer. A breast implant has a shell or envelope made of silicone. The shell is filled with either silicone gel or saline (salt) fluid or a combination of both. Breast implants are inserted under a general anaesthetic by a surgeon. They are placed behind the breast tissue either in front of or behind the chest muscles.
Can women with breast implants have a mammogram at BreastScreen WA?
Yes. Most women who have breast implants can have regular screening mammograms every two years. Before making an appointment you may wish to discuss with your GP or breast specialist whether screening mammography is suitable for you.
Can women with concerns about their breast implants come to BreastScreen WA to assess the problem?
No. Women who notice a problem with their breast implants should see their doctor for a clinical assessment. BreastScreen WA was established to detect early breast cancer. It is not designed to provide a diagnostic service for suspected implant problems.
Are mammograms safe for women with implants?
Mammograms are considered safe for women with breast implants. However, it is important that women are aware of the risks before deciding to attend BreastScreen WA:
Ruptures and leaks
There is an extremely small chance that the pressure placed on the implant during the mammogram process could cause the implants to rupture or break.
In women who have implants which have already ruptured or started to leak, it is possible having a mammogram could increase the amount of silicone or saline spreading into the breast tissue.
Change in shape
Some women who have implants develop unusually hard breasts. This is known as capsular contracture. It occurs because the scar tissue surrounding the implant tightens. It is possible that the pressure of the mammogram could cause the scar tissue to crack. If this occurs, your breasts may have a different shape and softer texture afterwards. However, it cannot be guaranteed that both breasts will be affected equally.
Screening mammograms use a very low dose of radiation and for most women, the benefits of having regular screening mammograms outweigh any possible risk from radiation exposure. Screening mammography for women with breast implants requires more X-rays to be taken. This means that you will get slightly more radiation than if you did not have implants.
Will having a screening mammogram be painful?
The special techniques needed to X-ray some women with breast implants may make the mammogram a little more uncomfortable than usual. Please tell the radiographer if you feel it is too uncomfortable.
Are screening mammograms effective for women with implants?
Screening mammograms can detect 70-90% of cancers. Mammograms are less effective for some women with implants because the implant can obscure some of the breast tissue making it more difficult to find small breast cancers.
When will I get my results?
Results will be posted to you within two weeks. Results will also be sent to your nominated GP.
In a small number of women further tests will be needed before cancer can be ruled out. If this is necessary BreastScreen WA will phone you to discuss the best course of action and help to organise for these tests to be done either at a BreastScreen WA Breast Assessment Centre or through your GP.
Will I be told if any problems are found with my implant?
Not all leaks and ruptures can be seen on a mammogram. If a leak or rupture is found, BreastScreen WA will tell you. You will be advised to consult with your doctor for further assessment. Implant problems will not be assessed by BreastScreen WA.
If I have breast implants, am I more likely to develop breast cancer?
At present there is no evidence that breast implants increase breast cancer risk, however the presence of breast implants may make screening less sensitive as a large proportion of the natural breast tissue may be obscured.
Do I need to tell BreastScreen WA that I have implants?
Yes. It is important BreastScreen WA knows if you have implants as special X-ray techniques will be used and more X-rays will be taken. Please tell us at the time of booking (either via phone or online) as you will be allocated an extended appointment time. Also tell the screening centre staff when you arrive for your screening mammogram appointment.