A recent meta-study published in the British Medical Journal reveals some troubling findings: existing research suggests that women with breast implantsA saline or silicone filled sac used during plastic surgery to enlarge or restore the shape of the breast. are more likely to die from breast cancer than women without them.
The news is troubling, but as usual, there’s much more to the story than recent headlines would have you believe. First of all, the new study does not suggest that breast augmentation causes breast cancer, nor does it show that implants make cancer worse. Instead, the findings have raised concerns among researchers that breast implants can make it more difficult to detect lumps and irregularities during mammograms.
Impaired visualization of mammograms can lead to false negativesA test result that indicates that a person does not have a disease when the person does have that disease., or instances of a woman being given a clean bill of health when she actually has a potentially cancerous tumorA mass of cells that can be benign or malignant.. Obviously, this is problematic. When the tumor is eventually discovered and diagnosed, the cancer has reached a more advanced stage. As we know, the best predictor of beating breast cancer is being diagnosed as early as possible, which is why The Maurer Foundation is dedicated to promoting early detection. This study suggests that implants can lead to delayed detection, which in turn would lead to lower breast cancer survival rates.
Of course, as with almost all breast cancer studies, more research is needed before we know anything for a certainty. The researchers conducted a meta-study to reach these findings, which means that they simply reviewed previous breast cancer studies that may not have been as concerned with the effect of implants. They caution that these studies were not intended to compare women with implants to women without them, and other important risk factors like obesity may not have been accounted for. There could be another explanation altogether for the higher mortality rates of the women in the prior studies.
However, while the explanation behind the results is uncertain, the numbers themselves are definitely cause for concern. The researchers found that women with implants had a 26% higher risk of being diagnosed at a later stage than those without, coupled with a 38% higher risk of death from breast cancer than those women without implants.
Given the threat to early detection, we are inclined to take the study seriously, and believe women should consider this potential risk when deciding whether to undergo breast augmentation. If you already have breast implants, make sure that your doctor is aware of them, and discuss the available options for alternative mammographyA low dose x-ray picture of the breast that allows a doctor to view glandular tissue and determine the presence of cancer. and breast imaging techniques to make sure your screening is as accurate as possible. Be extra vigilant about completing your monthly breast self-exams, and consider scheduling extra clinical breast exams so a doctor is checking on your breast health multiple times per year, especially if you’re over 40.
Regardless of your implant status, early detection is the key to defeating breast cancer. If you have trouble remembering to perform or schedule these exams, sign up for our free Alarm Clock today for convenient email reminders! Don’t take a chance when it comes to your health.