How Breast Surgery May Affect Cancer Screening

June 19, 2019 – 5 min read

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National guidelines suggest that most women begin having annual or bi-annual mammograms beginning between age 40 and 50. Women who are at high risk for breast cancer — age, family history, obesity, genetics, etc. — should be seen sooner and more frequently. In more recent years, studies have also shown that men who are at high risk should also receive regular mammograms. However, breast cancer is 100 times more common in women than in men.

Join us in today’s post as we discuss how breast surgeries may affect breast cancer screening and the diagnostic imaging that is used. At Touchstone Imaging, our first-class women’s imaging services are tailor-made to serve women and breasts of all forms. For all of your breast cancer screening imaging needs, visit us online to find a location near you.

Breast Implants

It is important that your radiology technologist know that you have breast implants prior to images being taken. Because the traditional x-ray images captured by traditional mammogram cannot go through silicone or saline implants well enough to expose the breast tissue beneath, women with breast implants will have two additional images taken on each side. Implants make capturing mammogram images to take a little more effort and are a little more involved but are completely doable. Implants, however, may affect a woman’s ability to feel suspicious lumps and scar tissue may cause images the be skewed.

As a safety side note, current research suggests that breast implants do not increase the risk of breast cancer, and breast cancer survival rates are the same for women who have implants as women who do not. However, breast implants do not help prevent breast cancer and may hide the signs and symptoms, even on a traditional mammogram. It is important for all women to be honest with their health care provider, discuss breast concerns honestly, and follow recommendations for cancer screening.

Breast Reduction

Breast reduction is the removal of part of the breast tissue. As an elective surgery to reduce the size of the natural breast, many surgeons will attempt to leave as many mammary glands and ducts as possible intact. This helps maintain normal function with regard to breastfeeding and hormonal changes. Breast reduction surgeries have been suggested to reduce the risk of breast cancer, which is likely due to the reduced amount of breast tissue that could be affected. However, it is important to understand that although the chances are reduced, without removing all of the breast tissue, lymph nodes, and mammary glands (total mastectomy), there is still a risk of developing breast cancer and screening should be done in the same intervals as would be done if tissue was not removed.

Breast reductions do not alter the diagnostic imaging procedure that will be done and a standard mammogram is usually sufficient to detect abnormalities. It is important to note that breast surgery of any kind may leave scar tissue behind that may show up on images. Your medical provider will review the images to determine whether the areas are scar tissue or atypical cells.


A mastectomy is the removal of the entire breast, including the lymph nodes that feed the tissue. A mastectomy may be performed with a diagnosis of breast cancer as a treatment. Mastectomies may also be performed for a female-to-male transgendered individual as a part of the transition or may be performed as a prevention for breast cancer. Preventative mastectomies are becoming more common with celebrities taking a more aggressive approach to reduce the risk of breast cancer and the increase in younger women being diagnosed.

If a total mastectomy is performed, studies suggest that routine mammograms and diagnostic imaging are not necessary. However, following a mastectomy, if there is an area of concern, an ultrasound or breast MRI can be used to look at the area.

Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy is not a surgical alteration to the breasts but is worth mentioning as it relates to diagnostic breast imaging and the risk of breast cancer. Hormone therapy is a non-invasive method of either intentionally changing the breast tissue, or as a treatment for menopause or other conditions that may result in secondary changes to the breasts. Natural hormone changes as well as synthetic hormones change the breast tissue and have been linked to higher rates of breast cancer. For women who go through natural menopause, the risk of breast cancer doubles, and then increases with the use of corrective hormones. Additionally, the transgendered population is at a disproportionate risk of breast cancer related to both natural risk and the use of hormones. These populations should be screened earlier and more frequently.

While breast surgeries may change the way we view your cancer screening, it does not limit our ability to help detect concerns. At Touchstone Imaging, our skilled technicians are experienced at performing breast cancer screening on breast tissue of all varieties. For your baseline or routine breast cancer screening, find a location near you. Visit us online to find out more about prescription-free screening imaging and how our women’s services can benefit you.