For women concerned that undergoing breast augmentation may increase their risk of breast cancer, or delay a diagnosis of breast cancer, there could be some new hope in the April 2018 issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the official journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The findings are the results of a study conducted by Dr. Michael Sosin of the Georgetown Medstar Hospital in Washington, D.C.
"The Georgetown study basically dispels the myth that women with breast implants are less likely to receive a timely breast cancer diagnosis than those without breast implants," says Dr. Ryan Mitchell, a plastic surgeon based in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, Nevada.
According to Sosin's findings, women with breast implants were not only at no increased risk of delayed diagnosis, but they also appeared to have smaller-sized cancerous tumors than those who did not have implants at all. Sosin also found that traditional mammography made the diagnosis of cancer more difficult in patients with breast implants.
"Many clinics have already begun to add additional screening technology to better assist in breast cancer diagnosis in patients with breast implants or denser breast tissue," says Mitchell. This comes on the heels of a study published in the March 9, 2016, Journal of Clinical Oncology, which claimed that digital tomosynthesis, otherwise known as 3D mammography, and ultrasound are more efficient at diagnosing breast cancer in these patients.
While Sosin's study didn't theorize what the connection between smaller tumors and breast implants may be, Mitchell believes those advanced detection techniques may be at least partly to thank.
"The study found that advanced techniques still may not help with early diagnosis, but if you are using a more accurate, more thorough machine right out of the gate, you're more likely to spot a tumor while it's still small," says Mitchell. "But as to whether or not there is something about the breast implant that causes the tumor to be smaller, that we don't know yet."
Sosin's study also found that women with breast implants typically received different treatment methods than those who didn't have implants, such as a higher rate of mastectomy and an increased likelihood of excisional biopsy.
An estimated one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, but numerous studies have shown that smooth breast implants do not increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Sosin's findings also found that neither silicone or saline implants increased breast cancer risk, but detection was easier in patients with saline implants, which Mitchell says is likely due to the density of the silicone gel.