Q&A: Is it possible breast cancer returned between my saline implant and chest wall?

Ask A Doctor Question: 

I had breast cancer removal, and a saline implant on 14 years ago. It is now very painful, around the implant and in my armpit. I am very concerned that cancer can come back between the implant and my chest wall. Any possibility of this?

- Alva


H. Christopher Coley, MD -

You should definitely get this evaluated as soon as you can.  There are a couple of possibilities, however I recommend that you make an appointment with the surgeon or his/her partner in the group who performed the surgery. 

--H. Christopher Coley, MD
Greensboro, NC


Barry L Eppley, M.D., D.M.D. -

Cancer recurrence is not likely to occur between the breast implant and the chest wall. More likely you have developed capsular contracture around the implant, which is common in reconstructed breasts particularly those that have had radiation as part of their treatment. Capsular contracture commonly causes chest wall pain as well as referred pain to the armpit region.

--Barry L Eppley, M.D., D.M.D.
Carmel, IN


Melek Kayser, MD, FACS -

Thank you for your question. Although this is a possibility, I would suspect that it is less likely than simply a change in the scar tissue surrounding the implant particularly, if you've had radiation. Over time, changes and thickening in the scar tissue can occur which is called a capsular contracture. This can cause pain, distortion and discomfort. In any case, it is important that you follow up with your general surgeon, oncologist, and plastic surgeon. I hope this helps and have a wonderful day.

--Melek Kayser, MD, FACS
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