How to check your breasts when you have implants

Undergoing breast augmentation can make checking your breasts for signs of cancer more difficult. Follow our simple guide to ensure you don't miss a thing…

Breast augmentation is still one of the most popular plastic surgeries in the UK, with over 7,000 women going under the knife each year. However, many women who undergo this operation aren’t aware of how their breast implants can affect their regular breast checking routine.

While implants don’t cause breast cancer, the positioning of the implants can make it more challenging to identify the early signs and symptoms of breast cancer, which can be obscured by the silicone.

breast cancer

As 40 per cent of breast cancers are identified by self-examinations, it’s vital that women with implants are thoroughly informed on how to accurately check their breasts, as well as being made aware of the additional steps required in their routine mammograms once they turn 40.

To help provide some clarity on the topic, here Mr Richard Johnson, leading breast cancer specialist and Medical Director at The Wilmslow Hospital in Cheshire, part of HCA Healthcare UK, discusses how women can check their breasts for abnormalities and the different processes involved in a mammogram.

Read more: How to enjoy sex after breast cancer

 

Self-examinations

a woman checking herself for breast cancer fake boobs

“When performing a self-check examination, it’s important to look for changes in the breast including dimpling, nipple discharge, rashes or a lump. Tumours may also appear in the collarbone and underarm, as these areas are full of lymph nodes. In order to feel for the lumps, women should use the pads of their fingers and knead the breast in a circular motion from the outside to the centre. This needs to be done while lying down, with one arm extended above their head to enable the breast tissue to be spread out evenly along the chest wall.

"It’s important to look for changes in the breast"

When performing this examination on breasts with implants, women should first feel around the breast to locate the implant, then press lightly but firmly inwards at the edge to feel for their ribs underneath to check for lumps. It’s also important that they don’t press too hard on the valve on the implant, as this can cause it to deflate and leak.

When standing, women need to check the placement of their nipples and the overall appearance of both breasts, firstly with both hands above their head and then by their side. This will help to detect appearance changes in the breast, as well as any issues with the implant, such as puckering.”

 

Mammograms

a woman performs a breast exam

“As most implants are usually placed behind the breast tissue to push it forward, it can be easier to feel for lumps which are near the surface. However, implants can obscure mammogram images so it’s important that women speak to their doctor before an appointment and let them know if they have implants. A mammogram is a low dose x-ray that allows doctors to see changes in the breast tissue. These tissue changes are often so small only a mammogram will be able to detect them.  

"It’s important that women speak to their doctor before an appointment and let them know if they have implants"

During the mammogram, the implant is pushed back against the wall of the chest and the breast is pulled forward over it. An additional four images are then taken to ensure the doctor can properly see the breast tissue around the implants. Usually, doctors will recommend that women get a mammogram before and within one year of their breast surgery, with the one taken after being the baseline for future tests.”

 

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About HCA Healthcare UK:

  • HCA Healthcare UK is the country’s largest provider of privately funded healthcare, with 800,000 patient interactions every year. From complex and urgent care, to primary care, outpatient and day-case treatment, we provide expert medical care across our network of hospitals, outpatient facilities and NHS partnerships.
  • HCA Healthcare UK includes London Bridge Hospital, The Portland Hospital, The Harley Street Clinic, The Lister Hospital, The Princess Grace Hospital, The Wellington Hospital, Roodlane Medical Ltd, and Blossoms Healthcare.  HCA UK also partner with leading NHS Trusts to provide care at The Christie Private Care, HCA UK at University College Hospital and Private Care at Guy’s.