This Is How Often Your Breast Implants Actually Need to Be Screened

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After a breast augmentation with implants, you may assume you’re set for a decade or so. However, FDA recommendations urge patients to get their implants screened much more regularly than that. A recent study found that the majority of breast implant patients aren’t compliant with these screening recommendations.

Patients are not getting their breast implants screened often enough

The study found that many breast cancer patients who received silicone implants were not compliant with the FDA recommendations. These screenings ensure the implants have not silently ruptured. The research shows that only 5.9 percent of respondents had undergone MRI screening in accordance with the recommendations. A majority of the patients said they weren’t aware of the recommendations.

The FDA updated guidelines in 2020

The FDA is continually updating these recommendations based on the most recent data. The agency updated the recommendations since the study was completed. In 2020, the FDA altered the surveillance recommendations to include ultrasound as an alternative to MRIs. In accordance with the recommendations, screenings should be done beginning five to six years after silicone implant placement and every two to three years thereafter.

“They have become a bit more flexible with regards to the use of diagnostic ultrasound (DUS) instead of an expensive MRI,” says Eugene, OR plastic surgeon Mark Jewell, MD. “I personally think that DUS is a good idea. It can help verify implant integrity, orientation (flip over), periprosthetic fluid, capsular calcification, and in the case of older implants, gel bleed and extracapsular gel.” While most people don’t experience complications, identifying a rupture is important.

There are barriers to getting breast implant screened

“The reality is most patients don’t want to do [screenings] if they’re not having problems,” says La Jolla, CA plastic surgeon Robert Singer, MD. However, he tells patients, “these are reasonable recommendations based on the information we have at this point.” Dr. Singer notes that current implants are different from older generation implants. However, it remains to be seen how they perform throughout the years. “How long will they last? Will they have fewer problems? Most likely, but only time will tell.” Until that’s clear, patients should keep up with screenings.

Patients are hesitant to head to the doctor’s office when there’s no obvious cause for concern. However, there are also bigger barriers at play. In the press release, Libby Copeland-Halperin, MD, speculates that lack of access to care and costly screenings may be part of the reason patients aren’t adhering to the guidelines.