Risk of breast cancer with implants?

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Question from ReneS: Is the risk of breast cancer any different if you have had breast implants? I had my first breast implants 37 years ago and two implant replacements over the last 20 years. I just found a lump under my left arm and a swelling above my left breast. I'm visiting the breast clinic soon. Is there likely to be any problem with treatment because of having implants? Thank you.
Answers - Beth Baughman DuPree, M.D., F.A.C.S. There is no difference in the incidences in women who have implants. There may be issues in the diagnostic workup, depending upon whether the implants were placed above or below the muscle. A swelling in your left breast needs to be evaluated with both mammography and ultrasound, and an ultrasound evaluation of the lump under your arm should also be undertaken. The treatment, surgically, of breast cancer in women with implants can at times be challenging, as the amount of native breast tissue in women with implants (by virtue of the fact that their native breast size was likely small prior to the placement of the implants) can be challenging to the surgeon. And the treatment of breast cancer in women with implants is the same as in women without implants. I have many times used chemotherapy to shrink tumors in order to help perform breast conserving surgery in women with a small volume of native breast tissue.
Ruth Oratz, M.D., F.A.C.P. If you make diagnosis of breast cancer in a woman who has breast implants, it is not required that the implants be removed. Depending on the size and location of the tumor, it may be possible for breast conservation therapy; that is, the surgery to permit the implants to remain in place. Certainly, in women who have a diagnosis of breast cancer who don't have implants and who undergo mastectomies, we insert implants as a type of breast reconstruction. So we are comfortable that the presence of the implant itself does not increase the risk of breast cancer. But as you heard, there may be some technical issues related to imaging and surgery that need to be considered. The presence of implants has no impact on our choice of systemic therapy, whether or not we use chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, or biologic treatments.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Open for Your Questions featured Ruth Oratz, M.D., F.A.C.P. and moderator Beth Baughman DuPree, M.D., F.A.C.S. answering your questions covering a wide variety of issues relating to breast cancer.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in September 2006.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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