Information for women with breast implants

Page last updated: 23 December 2015

Written information covering the following issues should be provided to women with implants prior to them being asked to sign a consent form to be screened.

Note This list details the issues which need to be covered in information given to women with implants. Services must retain all the information but can modify wording and format.

Can women with breast implants be screened through BreastScreen Australia?

  • Yes.
  • Women may wish to discuss their suitability for mammography with their doctor.

If women notice a problem with their implants, can they be screened through BreastScreen Australia?

  • No.
  • Women who notice a problem with their implants should see their doctor as soon as possible.
  • BreastScreen Australia was established to detect early breast cancer. It is not designed to provide a diagnostic service for suspected implant problems.

Is mammographic screening safe for women with implants?

  • Mammographic screening is generally safe for women with implants.
  • There is an extremely small chance that the pressure placed on the implant by the mammography machine could cause the implants to rupture or break.
  • In women who have implants which have already ruptured or started to leak, it is possible that having a mammogram could increase the amount of silicone or saline (depending on the type of implant) spreading into the breast tissue.
  • In some women with implants, very small amounts of silicone or saline (depending on the implant) pass through the pores of the implant shell. This is sometimes called 'bleeding' of the implant. At present it is not known whether mammography increases 'bleeding' of implants.
  • There is a small chance that mammography will change the shape of the breasts by dispersing the fibrous capsule that often grows around the implant. The breast may feel softer after mammography. However, it cannot be guaranteed that both breasts will be affected equally.

How much radiation is used?

  • Because of the extra views required, women with implants will experience more exposure to radiation during mammography than women without implants.

Is it painful?

  • The process of taking the mammogram may involve some discomfort as the implant may need to be pushed aside to expose the maximum amount of breast tissue. Most women find the discomfort does not last for very long.

Is mammographic screening effective in detecting breast cancer in women with implants?

  • Mammographic screening is not 100% effective.
  • Mammograms may be less effective for some women with implants because the implant can obscure some of the breast tissue.

Will I be told if any problems are found with my implant?

  • Identifying and reporting implant problems is not the role of BreastScreen Australia services and State Coordination Units (SCU)
  • Implant problems will not be assessed in the BreastScreen Australia Program.

If I have a breast implant, am I more likely to develop cancer?

  • At present there is no evidence that women who have breast implants are more likely to develop breast cancer. However, studies have not yet provided a definitive answer to this question.

How often should I have a mammogram if I have implants?

  • You should discuss this with your doctor
  • BreastScreen Australia screens eligible women every two years.

Developed in consultation with the National Advisory Committee to BreastScreen Australia November 1995