How Do They Do a Mammogram When You Have Implants?

Medically Reviewed on 10/12/2022
Mammogram with Implants
Many women with breast implants often complain that mammograms interfere with them.

Mammography with implants is slightly different because X-rays cannot be performed with silicone implants. Instead, the technicians perform implant displacement views to capture breast images.

Three-dimensional imaging mammograms are used for much more detailed screening, especially with implants.

  • This technique allows the technician to capture accurate and up-close images of the breast tissue.
  • This is the same reason why 3D mammograms are an excellent screening test for women with dense breast tissue.

What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is the best screening option to detect breast cancer. Mammograms are X-rays of the breast used for the early detection of cancer. In addition, mammograms can lower the risk of death caused by breast cancer.

Mammograms must be routinely performed with an increase in breast cancer cases in recent years.

Two types of mammograms

  1. 2D digital mammogram: Obtained by taking at least two pictures of each breast from different angles—typically from side to side and top to bottom
  2. 3D mammogram: Also known as digital breast tomosynthesis or just tomosynthesis and is a series of X-ray pictures of the breasts from different angles

What are the myths about mammograms and implants?

Many women often complain that mammograms interfere with their implants. Here are a few myths that are commonly believed:

  1. Myth 1: The implant covers the breast tissue, so there is no need for regular mammograms.
    • The fact is that mammogram technicians are well-experienced and know how to take mammograms with implants. First, they gently move the implants toward the chest wall and bring the breast tissue forward to capture better images. These pictures are called implant displacement views and capture better images of the front part of the breast.
  2. Myth 2: Women with implants are exposed to more radiation during mammograms.
    • Women with breast implants need a few extra images for better breast cancer screening, but the recently advanced mammogram machines use a very low dose of radiation to take X-rays. Yes, there is an increased dose of radiation, but it is a very slight increase; this does not cause any harm to you.
    • Studies have reported that a slight increase in the radiation dose may not increase cancer risk. However, avoiding routine mammograms merely due to mildly increased radiation doses may be dangerous for undetectable cancer.
  3. Myth 3: Mammograms can cause rupture of implants while screening.
    • There is a very rare risk of implants rupturing while mammogram screening.
  4. Myth 4: Women with breast implants cannot go for 3D mammogram screenings.
    • The fact is that 3D mammograms or digital breast tomosynthesis are recently advanced mammograms that are performed by taking images of thin layers of the breast at various angles to make a 3D image of your breast. These increased numbers of views make it easier to identify the defects.
    • However, some doctors do not use 3D imaging mammograms for women with breast implants because these X-ray machines use a slighter increased radiation dose.


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How do mammograms with breast implants work?

Mammograms with breast implants are not much different from the standard technique. However, you need to consider a few things, such as:

  • When scheduling your mammogram and on the day of your mammogram, it's crucial to let the mammogram facility know that you have breast implants.
  • The technician must know about the implants and how to take a mammogram with them.
  • Multiple numbers of images may be needed.
  • There is a very minimal risk of rupture of the implants while screening.

A mammogram with breast implants varies slightly from one without them. Because the X-rays cannot capture the images of breast implants, the technicians go for a new way of screening called implant displacement views to see the tissue behind and around the breast. 

Implant displacement views usually contain eight images. The four additional images referred to as implant displacement views are included in a typical 2D mammogram (two of each breast). During the image displacement views, the technician pushes the implants gently toward the chest wall and moves the breast forward to capture the images. This may cause pain and discomfort, but this is the only best way to scan the woman.

What are the concerns about implants while mammogram screening?

Screening does not check the implants. If some women feel they have problems with implants, they must inform their physician. The physician may recommend other investigations to detect defects in the implants.

The breast is compressed during a mammogram. The special views, in which the technician can push the implant up and out of the way before pulling the breast in and compressing it, require minimal pressure.

No proven studies report that pressure can cause implant rupture. Only for the additional X-rays, the breast tissue in front of the implant is pressed and is not under direct pressure.

Some women are aware of the ruptured or damaged implants but that does not cause any harm. As a result, inform the technologist about your implants before the mammogram begins.

There are other imaging options if the implant can't be moved enough to X-ray all of the breast tissue. Some may need an ultrasound or MRI, which can be used to screen for breast cancer.

Medically Reviewed on 10/12/2022
Image Source: iStock image,before%20your%20mammogram%20is%20started.