Breast implants and breast cancer

Breast implants connected to breast cancer?

We don’t know if there is a direct connection between breast implants leading to breast cancer. However, there are instances among people who go for breast implants, where a lump in the breast is mistaken for something to do with the implants whereas it really is cancer. This would probably have been detected in the early stages but the presence of the breast implants led to the confusion.

Take for instance the case reported in ABC Action News which talks about how a woman missed the indicators mistaking the lump for something to do with implants from a cosmetic surgery. She is quoted as follows:

“I’ve seen a lot of women with breast cancer.  I just never, never thought it could be me.”  Gill Green shared her story with a room full of women who understand.  They are all breast cancer patients.  But one part of Gill’s story stands out. “The lump was there.  I thought I knew better.  I thought it was something going on with my implant.”

Breast reconstruction surgeons accept the possibility of mistaking the lump to the scar from breast implants. Dr Wayne Lee, a plastic surgeon who does breast reconstruction and breast implants commented to ABC Action News as follows:

 “Sometimes it is difficult to tell. Whenever surgery is performed on the breast, there is a capsule, a scar capsule that naturally forms around the breast. If it starts to get hard and asymmetric from side to side, it could potentially be abnormal scarring or early signs of breast cancer.”

breast implants

Image by Alex E. Proimos via Flickr

That said, women with breats implants also have a tendency to get postpone mammograms for the fear of a bad result.  This in turn make matters worse. 

Having breast implants just means that the person may need to have some extra photos taken during the mammogram. There is a slight risk of implant rupture, but not going for mammograms is definitely not a choice as it remains the best method to detect and treat breast cancer right in the initial stages.

Can the breast implants themselves cause the breast cancer?

This is not very clear. While a number of previous research studies have indicated that the risk of developing breast cancer is less among women with implants compared to women without them, it may not be enough to conclude firmly. On the other hand there are studies that suggest that those with implants should make sure they are are regular with mammograms.

What their data certainly suggest is that women who have implants should make sure that they mention them when they come in for mammograms, and encourage technicians to shove those implants out of the way as much as possible (as uncomfortable as that may be) to maximize the chance of revealing any nascent tumors….More at Breast implants may mask early cancer | Biomedicine | Science News

There is hope though on the other side as better technology used in implants helps and re-growth.

Earlier this year, researchers at Brown University created a new kind of implant that uses nanotechnology to deter cancer re-growth. The implant material, a polymer, has a microscopically bumpy surface, which reduces the growth of blood vessels that typically feed cancerous tumors and in turn attracts healthy endothelial cells….More at The truth about breast cancer and implants

Breast implants: conclusion

The big question is – can this technology be used to keep cancer at bay right at the first time? Over time this should hopefully be possible leading to reduction in breast cancer cases across the world. On a lighter note, this may well serve as a catalyst for the breast implant market as more women would choose this for cosmetic as well as medical reasons.  However, price still remains a big factor and its anybody’s guess on how long it would take for such breast implants to be more affordable.