While everyone understands the importance of the annual mammogram for prevention of breast cancer. Those with silicone gel breast implants have another tool to consider for their overall breast health—the Breast MRI—not for breast cancer detection, but to verify the integrity of the silicone implant itself.

Silicone Gel Breast implants have long been determined safe by the FDA. However, the ability to determine the integrity of the gel implant, post-surgery, is not immediately noticeable because the silicone gel is thicker than saline. If a rupture were to occur, the result is often an intracapsular rupture–basically, the gel may remain in the shell or in the scar tissue that forms around the implant.

If a silicone gel-filled implant ruptures, a woman may notice a decrease in breast size, change in breast implant shape, hard lumps over the implant or chest area, an uneven appearance of the breasts, pain or tenderness, tingling, swelling, numbness, burning, or changes in sensation. Ruptures showing symptoms usually happen outside of the capsule. However, some ruptures are called “silent ruptures.”

A “silent rupture” doesn’t change the way an implant looks or feels to a woman because the rupture occurs within the capsule. Silent ruptures are not usually evident by a physical examination by a doctor. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the most effective method for detecting silent rupture of silicone gel-filled breast implants.

The FDA has recommended a MRI at 3 years after implantation and every 2 years after that to screen for implant integrity.

Although mammography and ultrasonography are the standard first steps in the diagnostic workup, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the most useful imaging modality for the characterization of breast implants because of its high spatial resolution and contrast between implants and soft tissues and absence of ionizing radiation. MRI has the highest sensitivity and specificity for implant rupture.