Do Airport Security Scanners See Breast Implants?

Now that almost 70 domestic airports feature full-body scanning machines, many travelers are anxious about giving security officers a revealing look at their bodies. This is especially true of women who prefer to keep their breast implants a secret.

Full-body scanners show numerous kinds of implanted medical devices, ranging from pacemakers to artificial joints, and breast implants are no exception. As this information has reached women with breast implants, some have expressed privacy concerns, especially among those who do not openly admit to having undergone augmentation surgery.

Although full-body scanners may seem like an opportunity for embarrassment, it's important to remember that the security officers at airports are professionals and aren't looking to humiliate you; they're looking for objects that could compromise safety.

Also keep in mind that you are not required tell anyone that you have breast implants. According to the official website of the TSA (Transportation Security Administration), "It is recommended (but not required) that you advise the Security Officer that you have an implanted pacemaker, other implanted medical device, or metal implant and where that implant is located."

Have you been worried about security officers knowing you have implants? Have you gone through advanced security with implants? Tell us about your concerns and experiences by leaving a comment below.
Sort comments by most recent
  • Sort comments by most recent
  • Sort comments by oldest


27 comments | Post a comment
I had a lumpectomy and radiation therapy 5 years ago. Since then, every time I fly I am pulled aside and "manually" scanned by a TSA agent. The agent scans the radiated breast area only. I am told that the scanner "picked up something." I have tried researching the residual effect of radiation therapy as well as the residual effect of the radioactive dye used in finding my sentinel lymph node during surgery, but can't find anything. Seems too coincidental to me.
Posted April 25, 2015 2:02 PM EDT
After having to put up with "involuntary" pat downs twice in the past 2 years because the scanner picked up on my implants, last week during our last vacation, I opted for a voluntary pat down instead of being scanned. I felt it seemed like an inconvenience for the TSA workers since I had to wait about 5 minutes before they could find a woman to do it. And since I asked for a private room instead of standing in the public area, they had to get another woman to be in the room with us and that took another 5 minutes. I also made sure they put on clean gloves. Personally, I feel scanners are more toxic, invasive and embarrassing than pat downs and will opt for pat downs with clean gloves in a private room in the future instead.
Posted June 25, 2014 12:35 PM EDT
Yes I have been pulled aside 2 out of the last three flights I have been on. My implants are more than 20 years old and my breasts are very firm from calsification. I was felt all over my breast just two weeks ago flying from Las Vegas to Denver. My hands were swabbed too. I was allowed to fly but very embarrassed.
Posted March 24, 2014 1:05 PM EDT
I have full implants from breast cancer reconstruction surgery. It was terribly humiliating being taken aside -- in full view of everyone -- and having my breasts patted all over. I don't want to ever fly again.
Posted February 13, 2014 8:56 PM EST
I don't know where all these comments are coming from. I have implants and travel at least twice monthly for work. I have never, ever had a comment or snide remark.
Posted August 18, 2013 6:56 PM EDT
Ok. I have implants and have flown many many times. The original body scanning machine I guess picked up my implants and I was patted down. The newer body scan (the ones with the rotating arms) did not pick up on them but it did detect a piece of gum I left in my pocket by mistake. :). The officer showed me the diagram of my body (no longer looks like you but a cartoon drawing) and where it was lit up and there were no lights where the boobs would be. Good news for us ladies that believe it is no ones business what kind of surgery we have had. BUT, I did also recently go through the magnetic scan and it did pick up my implants and they did swab my hands. It was no big deal and no questions were asked. So if you are concerned about possibly being questioned in public, don't go through this one.
Posted July 23, 2013 6:46 PM EDT
I have not traveled since full body scanners, nor do I plan to do so at all. I have double mastectomies with implant reconstruction. After one intrusive breast pat down/exam in front of hundreds of people, my humiliation was too much to ever go through that again. The lady was nasty and the pat down was like being felt up by a sexual partner. It was obscene. I have anxiety attacks over flying and won't be doing it again in my life. It's been 8 years now since I've been on a plane. I don't miss it and it's my right not to fly. Scan all you want, I won't be there.
Posted July 18, 2013 2:00 PM EDT
I went through Amsterdam Schipol airport this morning (with breast implants!) and went through a full body scanner for the first time. They did ask if they could pat me down afterwards yet only patted up and down my legs and around my ankles. I did not realise breast implants are detected by this scanner and thought the check to be due to me wearing boots! I'm not ashamed of having implants yet do worry about entering america for a holiday next year as I know they are so acute about security checks. Also, the radiation exposure is a worry for me, perhaps I will refuse next time. Are we within our rights to refuse no matter which country and continent we are travelling through?
Posted August 31, 2012 10:22 AM EDT
I have implants after bilateral mastectomy and have been subjected to pat down after every scan....will try to opt out of scan next time, certainly don 't need more radiation.
Posted July 16, 2012 6:00 PM EDT
do any of you concerned people realize that you are not forced to go through these invasive scanners? You can have pat down instead or sometimes they just let you go through metal detector, it's your constitutional right to say no to these 1984 methods that have already failed to work more than once. You think that TSA officers have a completely professional mind set when checking you out naked!? I'm not okay with free porno pics of myself to share with a random,under educated TSA officer.
Posted January 18, 2012 11:46 AM EST
I have breast implants due to a double mastectomy and not only did the security officer point out my implants which were marked as squares on my body scan but they checked my chest in full view of everyone and then tested my hands for explosive residue at the Dallas airport. I found it to be extremely embarrassing. I wish we could subject those making these decisions to the same treatment. We have ID with serial numbers for implants. Better to have to carry that document and prove it is you through ID then be subject to a humiliating experience every time I fly. There are better ways to deal with implants through security.
Posted December 13, 2011 8:10 PM EST
I could care less what the see on my body when walking through the scanners. What I want them to see is that I am not carrying anything that can harm anyone on the plane. The people complaining shouldn't travel talking about our right, we lost them on 911 people walk up. We live in a different world now. Go with the flow, and be thankful, they can scan and see anyone trying to put us all in harms way..
Posted December 04, 2011 6:17 PM EST

It is time that intelligent Women stand up for their CIVIL LIBERTY rights - the 4th Amendment righst. It is TOTALLY INSANE that well-educated people (who lack COMMON SENSE = totally STUPID) think they are safer because some TSA screeners are getting paid by our tax dollars and touching our private body parts.
Posted March 18, 2011 11:33 PM EDT
When will LOGICAL Americans WAKE up and STOP this insanity of paying these TSA screeners to violate our CONSTITUTIONAL rights? I am talking about the 4th amendment.
Posted March 18, 2011 11:24 PM EDT

There is no doubt that the TSA screenings have been bordering on a lot of potential basic personal privacy concerns over the past few months as safety regulations have increased. Thank you for this article as this issue can become a touchy subject. As a cancer survivor, I've been writing about the airport body scanner issues on my blog and the lack of privacy given to individuals especially for those who may have special conditions as it relates to their health Many survivors have also gotten implants post cancer surgery or are wearing prosthetics after receiving a mastectomy and we can only imagine that pain and fear these individuals can experience if being scanned and their personal business being exposed. When does it become okay to compromise our privacy for our safety? I'm on the fence like every other American or US traveler. But perhaps its all really an issue of training TSA employees on being sensitive to special conditions and circumstances for travelers. Thanks again for bringing this issue to light! - Britta
Posted January 05, 2011 5:21 AM EST
I am a frequent traveler and find the scanners incredibly invasive. Given that these are machines combined with a standard procedure, they are predictable and, as a result, worthless in truly creating a higher level of security. Being scanned and pat down like a criminal makes me, the one who had to deal with managing a family while my spouse served the country, wonder who succeeded after all. True security comes from people keeping their eyes open, not from millions of dollars wasted on machines and procedures that don't differentiate between grandma and travelers that fit into a more likely profile.
Posted December 28, 2010 10:57 AM EST
I've recently traveled and had to pass though these "cancer machines", even after I asked to "Opt Out". Oh, and even after getting a dose of radion, they still hand searched me. I don't think I look dangerous. I'm 5'9", 120 lbs, Caucasian, blonde. It's not that I felt violated if they saw my implants, it's the machine harmuful effects that have me concerned. I've been following this issue very closely and I truly belive that it is extremely harmful to health to go through these machines. No wonder all the pilots are against it, they are already exposed to high levels of radiation. I definately don't want my little kids to go through this machine, I think we'll have to take vacation locally from now on.
Posted December 27, 2010 2:57 PM EST
Tom, Benjamin Franklin said that, not Jefferson. But considering your fringe viewpoint, I'm not surprised you got it wrong.
Posted December 27, 2010 12:50 PM EST
One important point not mentioned in your article: The person viewing the scan is in an entirely different room and the general public doesn't see anything. I was recently scanned at La Guardia in NYC and even I myself saw nothing; it was a no-brainer. You hold your arms up and stand still. I completely agree with the other commenter ... it's a small price for increased safety. The complaints are much ado about nothing.
Posted December 27, 2010 8:41 AM EST
As a international flight attendant with breast implants, I have been going through such screenings in other countries long before the US got on board. I have looked at the screen used abroad and the image is more like a card board cutout with highlighted boxes where a hand check must be done. I'm inconvenienced by the post 911 security measures but welcome the invasion.
Posted December 27, 2010 8:38 AM EST
I disagree with the prior commentor. I would *not* feel better if my images were viewed by a woman vs. a man. Either viewing is a complete violation of our constitutional rights. It is a design to slowly erode our privacy so the government can grow bigger and more intrusive. With each right they strip away, we become more 'dulled' to the sense it is happening. This is a travesty in every way.
Posted December 27, 2010 8:17 AM EST
I have had implants for years, but certainly have not disclosed that fact to EVERYONE, none of their business. I am very stressed about just how I will handle the security as I frequently travel with an elderly aunt in a wheelchair, and would hate to have to run off and leave her to go to a separate area for the patdown. These scanners are just "too much information" and UNFORTUNATELY, the items that SHOULD be picking up they are missing.... these scanners are a government pay back for a guy from the Bush administration. He left the white house and immediately bought this company that makes the scanners, knowing the requirement was just around the corner. MORE FLEECING OF AMERICA.
Posted December 27, 2010 8:08 AM EST
I am a frequent traveler and go through these full body scanners regularly. I also have implants. These guards are only trying to get the herd of people through security quicky and safely. These guards see thousands of people a day and I am quite sure like all body parts, if you have seem one you have seen most. They will not remember me or my implants. I go through without a fuss and sometimes even wink at the guard on the way out of the scanner.
Posted December 27, 2010 7:54 AM EST
''The man who would choose security over freedom deserves neither.'' Thomas Jefferson 911 was an Inside job meant to be a tool to invade soverign nations and bring about a new world order!
Posted December 27, 2010 6:15 AM EST
You are ignoring the breast cancer/mastectomy issue - I wear a silicone prosthesis. The comments I receive on the post-scan pat-down(required when they see it), are not polite - or printable. More education needs to be given to TSA workers who do not understand the hurt their words carry.
Posted December 27, 2010 6:06 AM EST
I think women and men should be more worried about total body radiation especially women of child bearing age.
Posted December 27, 2010 5:24 AM EST
I have yet to travel since they put up the full body scanners and my feelings are, as long as it doesn't cause my body harm in anyway they can look all they want. I rather have extreme security measures than another 911 situation. I'm not sure how the scanning works but it would be nice if they separated the guards by gender to monitor the screens. I think that would take a lot of the anxiety away from most woman if they knew only female security guards would be seeing their image.
Posted December 22, 2010 8:40 AM EST

Find an Expert


Select one below: