Checking your breasts after breast reconstruction
You will not usually need to have mammograms of the reconstructed breast(s) after a mastectomy.
But if you had one breast reconstructed, you will be invited to have regular mammograms of your natural breast.
Breast implants may hide part of the breast during a mammogram. But experts believe that mammograms are still useful to check breast tissue that covers the implant. Your doctor can advise you on how any possible recurrence of cancer can be found.
You cannot develop breast cancer in any fat or muscle moved into your breast from another part of your body. But there is a small chance of breast cancer developing in any breast tissue left under the skin or in the skin left behind. So it is important to continue checking both your natural breast and your reconstructed breast for any abnormalities or changes.
Your doctor will also regularly examine your breasts after your reconstruction.
If you have had risk-reducing breast surgery you will still need to check your breasts.
It may take some time for you to get used to the feel and look of your reconstructed breast (s). Ask your nurse to show you how to check your breasts. They can also give you leaflets to remind you what to do.
How to check your breasts
Things to look out for include:
- breast tissue that feels different, for example harder or tighter
- a change in the appearance or shape of a breast
- a change in the skin’s texture, for example puckering, dimpling, a rash or thickening
- a lump or lumpy area you can feel in the breast or armpit
- a change in the appearance or colour of the breast
- a rash or change along the scar line
- swelling of the upper arm
- discharge from the nipple (if not removed)
- a rash or swelling on the nipple or the areola (if not removed)
- pain or discomfort.
There can be other causes for these changes other than cancer. But it is important to tell your nurse or doctor if you find anything that concerns you. They will examine you and arrange tests to check for anything unusual. These can include an ultrasound, MRI scan or biopsy.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our breast cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
European Society for Medical Oncology. Primary breast cancer: ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of oncology 26 (supplement 5): v8–v30. 2015.
Morrow M, et al. Chapter 79: malignant tumors of the breast. DeVita, Hellman and Rosenberg’s cancer: principals and practice of oncology (10th edition). Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. 2014.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Early and locally advanced breast cancer: diagnosis and management. July 2018.
Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network. SIGN 134. Treatment of primary breast cancer: a national clinical guideline. September 2013.
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr Rebecca Roylance, Consultant Medical Oncologist.
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