Breast Implants Make Tumors Harder To Spot

A report — amassing data from an analysis of 12 separate studies published after 1993 in the US, Europe, and Canada — suggests breast implants may increase the risk of advanced stage breast cancer.

Researchers from a range of health institutions in Quebec, Canada probed five particular studies involving over 600 women with cosmetic enhancements and surmised having implants increased the possibility of death by breast cancer by almost a third (38 percent), primarily because detecting tumors were more difficult.

Further study is required, but the currently accumulated information from the last 20 years shows that inhibited detection in implants contributes to an increased risk of a later stage breast cancer diagnosis – as was the case for nearly a quarter of the 1,000 women (26 percent) in the systematic review who had implants in comparison to those without.

Results, published online in the British Medical Journal, should be interpreted with caution, as several other possible factors can be involved, and there is no direct evidence stating a causality of breast implants and tumors, simply a difficulty in identifying them.

Still, researchers speculate the shadow implants create on X-rays may obstruct the screening view and conceal possible abnormal growths. X-rays are not able to penetrate and render a clear image through an implant.

Additionally, many implants composed of silicone gel and saline cannot be easily or at times sufficiently compressed into mammography equipment. As a result, early cancers may be missed until they grow to a more advanced stage, cutting the chances of survival.

While implants can obscure breast tissue in X-rays, it is still possible to detect breast cancer in women with implants, as mammograms and other screening tools need to be taken at several different angles to ensure the full volume of the breast has been examined. Regular manual exams can also still be performed.

In the US, breast augmentations topped the 2012 list of cosmetic procedures performed at a total of 286,274; down by seven percent from the previous year. Breast augmentation surgery, also known as augmentation mammaplasty, is the surgical placement of silicone and or saline-filled implants which are used to increase fullness and improve symmetry of the breasts, or to restore breast volume lost after weight reduction or pregnancy. Implants can be placed either subglandularly or subpectorally, over or under the pectoral muscle, and can cost between $5,000 to $10,000 or more depending upon the surgeon and cosmetic needs.

[Image via Shutterstock]