Everyone should be checking their breasts “using three fingers, keeping the fingers perfectly straight (not bending them) and using firm pressure so that the beginning of the white color of your nail bed can be seen,” says National Breast Cancer Foundation Medical Advisory Council member Lillie D Shockney, RN. However, those with breast implants need to be even more attentive when they check their breasts. For example, Shockney says those with implants need to spend “more time checking around the edges or circumference of the implant.”
If you have implants, you should be getting your breasts checked by your doctor routinely. However, if something comes up in between appointments, be sure to reach out. “You should trust your intuition. If something does not seem right, get it checked out,” says New York plastic surgeon David Shafer, MD.
Hardening of the implant
Vancouver, WA plastic surgeon and Natrelle partner Allen Gabriel, MD says that you should contact a plastic surgeon and schedule an appointment if you notice a hardening of the implant. Dr. Shafer notes that even slight firmness could be an indication that something is wrong. “While rare, mild capsular contracture can add minor firmness to the implants,” says Dr. Shafer. “Some patients actually like this effect as it gives them a boost, but as capsular contracture progresses, the firmness can distort the shape of the implant or even cause pain or discomfort.” If this is the case, the patient may need to have the capsule removed and the implants replaced.
Shifting of the implant
Whether it’s a subtle shift or a more noticeable movement, any shifting in the pocket should be examined by your doctor, says Dr. Gabriel.
Pain and discomfort
“It generally takes about three months before patients report that they forget about their implants. The implants have essentially become part of their body,” says Dr. Shafer. If, after this amount of time, you’re still experiencing pain and discomfort, see your doctor.
Asymmetrical implants or a change in implant size
Dr. Shafer says another rare issue is seroma. “This can result in asymmetry between both sides or feel like water is surrounding the implants,” he says. “While most times this is benign, patients should get this checked out as there are very rare forms of cancer that can manifest as fluid around the breast implant.”
While implant rupture is rare, it’s crucial to be aware of the signs. “If the implant was filled with saline, then a patient may notice an almost immediate or overnight significant reduction in the size of the breast on the ruptured side,” says Dr. Shafer. On the other hand, “If the implant was filled with silicone, then the patient may notice a shape mismatch between the two sides that was not present before.” Dr. Gabriel says sudden enlargement of breasts could also be a red flag.
Lumps and bumps
When checking breasts, you should be feeling for lumps, both soft and hard, says Shockney.
Any changes to the skin of the breast should be a red flag, says Dr. Shafer. “Dimpling, dilated pores, and a rash on the skin” are all signs to get your breasts checked, says Shockney.
The nipple can be a window into your breast health. Dr. Shafer says to watch for nipple changes, nipple discharge and discomfort in one or both nipples.