Breast Cancer Radiation With Breast Implants

Breast cancer patients that have breast implants often worry how the implants will affect her radiation treatment. Dr. Harness explains what types of radiation therapy would work for a woman who has breast implants and what the procedure looks like in the video below:

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Jay K Harness, MD: Can a woman use radiation if she has breast implants?

I love our people who are following us out there, because they have such great questions, terrific questions.

Yeah, now that’s a good one.

Well, it’s a really good one because as a matter of fact, I have a case just like that right now, beautiful augmentation several years ago, young woman tiny little cancer. You know, the breast ends up least of being pancaked out. The implant sort of like my fist here pushes up in the breast tissue, the skin is on top. So, the breast ends up being sort of like a pancake draped over the top of the implant. Now the bottom line from this is if you do hold breast radiation therapy, unfortunately, there is a real increased incidence of thickening of the capsule that normally forms around the implant. You get uncomfortable and…

It could be painful.


It could retract. So the plastic surgeon may have to go back in and take out that thickened capsule. So, in general we have tried to avoid whole breast radiation therapy in that set of circumstances because we know what can happen down the road. Now one of the things we have been doing here is called single fraction of radiation therapy, where at the time of surgery, we take out the small cancer, bring the overlying tissue together and then do the radiation therapy right focused on the area. We have a special unit in our operating room to deliver electron radiation therapy then radiating just that small area of the implant probably will have no impact on thickening the capsule or whatever, but it’s a tough situation and so again you want to be working with a multidisciplinary team to see what’s right for you. In some of these situations, Lisa, what we have been doing here is with the larger tumors with an implant, we have been doing the nipple sparing mastectomies and therefore generally you do not need the radiation therapy. We can deliver the breast out through the fold underneath the breast, put a temporary tissue expander in place, do chemo if you need it or don’t need it or whatever and then a few months later put a new permanent implant in and in that set of circumstances you do lose sensation, but we have got a much better cosmetic outcome than if we try to radiate somebody. So, that’s another option if you are working again with a multidisciplinary team.

Dr. Jay K. Harness is a board certified surgeon currently treating patients at St. Joesph Hospital in Orange, CA. Dr. Harness specializes in complete breast health, breast cancer surgery, oncoplastic reconstruction, genetic screening, management of breast health issues, risk assessment and counseling. Dr. Harness is the medical director for Breast Cancer, and guides this first ever social media show’s information by drawing on his former leadership experience as the President of the American Society of Breast Surgeons and Breast Surgery International. Dr. Harness graduated from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1969 and spent time early on in his career at the University of Michigan Medical Center.

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