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Will I Need To Continue Breast Cancer Screening After Top Surgery?

Posted by Dr. Hugh McLean on 23 July 2019
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For many transgender males or non-binary people, getting top surgery is one of the most important steps in their physical transition. Female-to-male top surgery is a surgical procedure that completely removes the excess breast tissue for a flattened chest. For many individuals, getting top surgery helps align how they feel on the inside with the outside, which is incredibly important for their identity.

Will I Need To Continue Breast Cancer Screening After Top Surgery

One of the most common questions asked by patients who go through FTM top surgery is whether or not they need to continue receiving breast cancer screenings. Some believe that because this procedure removes the breast tissue, the risk of breast cancer is completely gone — but that’s not the case. In fact, even after your full transition, there are things patients still need to do to keep an eye out for. To answer all these questions, here’s everything you need to know about breast cancer screenings post-top surgery.

What Is A Breast Cancer Screening

A breast cancer screening is a medical screening to detect signs of breast cancer in the breast tissue. The purpose of it is to help with early diagnosis amongst individuals who have the disease. The assumption is that early detection can help improve the odds of conquering cancer if the patient is tested positive for it.

Screenings are done through mammograms, a special x-ray conducted on the breasts to help pinpoint any suspicious signs that may be indicative of cancer.

Canadian guidelines recommend that ciswomen get screened for breast cancer every two or three years once they hit the age of 50 – 74 years old. Depending on a person’s genetic or personal medical history, they may be required to do screenings more frequently as advised by their general practitioner. For individuals considered high-risk, it’s recommended they get annual testing starting at age 30.

Do I Still Need Breast Cancer Screenings Post-Top Surgery?

The simple answer is, yes. While you may be content with the results of your top surgery procedure and being able to have the masculine frame you’ve always dreamed of, there will likely be some breast tissue that remains within the chest wall. While it may not look like much, especially now that any remaining tissue will be hugging tightly towards the chest, that small amount of breast tissue still puts transmen at risk of getting breast cancer.

The good news? The risk is incredibly low as top surgery significantly reduces the risk of getting breast cancer. With that said, there are still some precautionary things you can do to protect yourself and get early detection.

Do Regular Self-Examinations

Once you’ve done your top surgery, it’s important to get acquainted with your new body. Every transgender person experiences their transition differently and no matter what change you make, it’s crucial to spend time with yourself and get to know your new body and changes. It’s highly recommended that you do monthly self-examinations to not only get to know yourself better but also check for any changes in your chest area. Look for changes in the breast tissue, including the feeling, size and appearance. If you see significant changes that weren’t present before, make an appointment with your doctor immediately.

How Are Breast Cancer Screenings Done After Top Surgery?

Breast cancer screenings for transgender men or nonbinary individuals will be different than traditional methods. Because of the absence of breast tissue, doing a mammogram won’t be possible. Instead, screenings may involve doing some sort of imaging or MRI scan in order to do proper screenings which have to get referred by your doctor.

Barriers To Breast Cancer Screening

There are considerable barriers to breast cancer screening procedures which may dissuade transmen and nonbinary individuals from getting tested.

As trans men transition, it’s natural to start changing all government identification from female (F) to male (M). But what many don’t realize is by doing so, they’re longer eligible for Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) because their health card is now identified as male. Because of this, transmen will have to get referrals from their doctor in order to get a mammogram or screening done, and will never receive any correspondence from OBSP which reminds ciswomen to get screened annually.

As the medical world becomes increasingly more aware of these sensitivities, especially to those in the LGBTQ2+ community, this will likely improve down the road. In the meantime, it’s encouraged that transmen take responsibility for their health and make sure they get screened whenever possible.

Talk With Your Surgeon

Getting top surgery is potentially one of the biggest moments in your life. But before you do it, not only do you want to make sure you’re in the best hands, you also want to know all the risks involved.

For any questions or concerns pertaining to your procedure, be sure to bring them up during your consultation. Prior to the procedure, your surgeon will do a thorough medical check and advise you of any potential risks you may face with the procedure, as well as do a medical background check to help identify any other risks.

No matter what surgeon you go with, be sure they’re experienced and treat you with the dignity and respect you deserve while you go through this major milestone in your transition. For the best of the best in the industry, contact Dr. McLean who has 20 years of FTM surgery experience in the Greater Toronto Area. Not only does he have the expert experience, but he and his team also make sure the process goes as smooth as possible. Contact them today to experience the best service in the industry.

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