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Breast injection skews mammograms

Beijing — Results of a new study show that breast augmentation procedures in which fat from the patient’s body is transferred to the breasts can cause false suspicion of breast cancer on follow-up mammograms, Medical News Today reports.

Researchers from Meitan General Hospital in Beijing looked at records of 48 women who underwent autologous fat injection for breast augmentation between 1999 and 2009. Follow-up mammograms obtained some years after the procedures showed “clustered microcalcifications” in eight of the 48 women, or 16.7 percent. In all eight cases, the microcalcifications were regarded as “highly suspicious” for breast cancer.

The abnormalities prompted biopsies, but none revealed breast cancer. Instead, the calcifications appeared to be related to necrosis of the injected fat cells. The study found that mammographic changes occurring after fat injection are indistinguishable from abnormalities associated with breast cancer.

Despite a long history of debate over the use of injected fat for breast augmentation, more recent studies have reported that the method provides very good results, and that any changes seen on mammograms are easily distinguished from abnormalities related to breast cancer.

In contrast, the new study finds mammographic abnormalities suspicious for breast cancer in one out of six women undergoing fat injection for breast augmentation.

According to the study, the clustered microcalcifications are indistinguishable from those associated with breast cancer, requiring a biopsy to help physicians make the correct diagnosis. Because of this issue, the authors write in the April issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, autologous fat injection for breast augmentation should be discontinued.

That recommendation conflicts with a paper published in the March issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, which concluded, “Radiographic follow-up of breasts treated with fat grafting is not problematic and should not be a hindrance to the procedure.”

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