NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A widespread belief among women who have had a mastectomy is they'll never need a mammogram. Some continue to think that way even after reconstructive surgery, but that may not be the case.
Just because the breast isn't there or is different is no excuse for not having a breast exam.
A mammogram provides an image of breast tissue so understandably, many women following their mastectomy mark the annual exam off their calendars forever.
"You know, I think it's because people think 'the breast is gone and so what are we mammogramming?'" said Dr. Kathryn Lewis.
The answer is the chest wall, a place where cancer can reoccur. When there's no breast, oncologists know what to look for during routine exams. But when their patient chooses implants the signs are often hidden.
"If you have a reconstructed breast you still need to have a mammogram of that reconstructed area in order to monitor the chest wall. Otherwise, there's no way to do it," said Lewis.
And that uncomfortable squeeze women often complain about during their mammograms won't even phase the implants.
"It's not going to hurt the implants to have mammography done. The mammographer knows how to do it safely so it doesn't hurt it. You just need to go from being a standard mammogram to a diagnostic because they do another view," said nurse practitioner Bonnie Wittpenn.
"If they do have implants, than we have to take eight pictures instead of four," said mammographer Melissa Phillips.
"Have you ever had any breast surgeries? Do you have any breast implants?" is a routine question for mammographers. Yet surprisingly, not all doctors order a mammogram to patients following implant surgery.