What are the survival rates of women who have implants as part of reconstruction after a breast cancer diagnosis? Are their survival rates impacted?

First of all, the incidence (occurrence) of breast cancer in women with implants is virtually the same for women without implants at any given age.  In fact there is some evidence that the occurrence might be slightly less for those with implants. So, having an implant even after having breast cancer will not increase the chance of recurrence or generation of a new cancer.

However, in women with cosmetic implants, chance of dying from breast cancer increases 38% compared to women without implants according to a recent article in the British Medical Journal (BMJ 2013; 346:f2399). This article is open-source (free to anyone with internet).

Presumably, the increased mortality associated with implants is a result of later discovery of the cancers because of the interference of the implants to discovery of the cancers at a small size.

On mammograms, implants are sandwiched between the lower and upper breast tissue on one view and inner and outer tissue on the other view. Saline (salt-water) and silicone in implants are denser than cancer and therefore obscure it in the images.

An attempt is made to push the implant away on some mammogram views, but about 1/3 of the tissue remains obscured.

Ultrasound examines the skin and breast tissue without inference from the implant below, much like seeing fish in clear water without the opaque lake bottom interfering.

I suggest that a woman with implants get a whole breast ultrasound, preferably 2-D automated in addition to a mammogram every year, so that if she is unfortunate enough to be among the one in eight who gets a breast cancer, she will be able to find it early. This is particularly true for the women who get implants after lumpectomy (incomplete removal of the breast) for cancer.  For them there is a one chance in five of the cancer growing back or appearing in a new spot. Consequently, early detection is doubly important.

Print Friendly

Submit a Comment