Women with Cosmetic Implants May Have Worse Breast Cancer Survival Rates, but More Research Needed

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A study has found that women with cosmetic breast implants, usually done to enlarge breast size, seem to have worse survival rates if they’re diagnosed with breast cancer. The study also suggests that this worse survival may be due to breast cancer being diagnosed at a later stage in women with cosmetic implants.

It’s important to know that the study did not look at women who had implants for breast reconstruction after breast cancer surgery.

The study was published online on April 30, 2013 by the British Medical Journal. Read “Breast cancer detection and survival among women with cosmetic breast implants: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies.”

It’s also important to know that this study was a meta-analysis – a study that combines and analyzes the results of earlier studies.

In this case, the researchers looked at 12 studies involving nearly 29,000 women that compared the stage of the breast cancer when it was diagnosed in women with and without cosmetic implants. Women with cosmetic implants were 26% more likely to be diagnosed with later-stage breast cancer compared to women without cosmetic implants. Still, this difference wasn’t significant, which means that it could be due to chance and not just because the women had cosmetic implants. Also, some of these studies didn’t take into consideration other factors that may have affected the stage at which breast cancer was diagnosed, including how often the women had mammograms or other health problems.

When looking at breast cancer survival rates between women with and without cosmetic implants, the researchers analyzed only five studies, which is a very small number. They found that women with cosmetic implants were 38% more likely to die from breast cancer compared to women who didn’t have cosmetic implants. This difference was significant, which means that it was likely due to the implants and not just because of chance. Still, none of the five studies took into account other factors that may have affected survival rates, including the women’s age and other health problems they might have had.

Because there are so many questions about this study’s results, it’s a good idea to wait until more research is done before making a link between cosmetic implants and worse breast cancer survival.

If you have cosmetic breast implants, make sure that you talk to your doctor about a breast cancer screening plan that is best for you and your unique situation. A cosmetic implant can obscure the tissue behind it on a mammogram, so your radiologist can’t see it. You may benefit from breast cancer screening with MRI scanning because it does a better job of seeing around the implant. Together, you and your doctor can develop a screening plan that is right for you.

For more information on tests used to detect breast cancer, visit the Breastcancer.org Screening and Testing pages.

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