What Does an Abnormal Mammogram Mean?
If you’ve experienced years of normal mammograms in the past, you may feel overwhelmed with anxiety if you receive an abnormal mammogram result. Don’t panic. There are many reasons you might receive abnormal results, and the vast majority are not breast cancer. Learn why your screening may need a second look and what steps you’ll follow next.
Why Do I Need a Mammogram?
Mammograms save lives. A mammogram can detect small abnormalities in the breast tissue up to two years before you or your doctor can feel it. Breast cancer is easily treatable when found early. In fact, early detection can increase your survival rate by up to 30 percent. Consider these facts:
- One out of eight U.S. women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in her life.
- Three out of four of the women diagnosed have no known risk factors or family history of the disease.
- One out of six cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in a woman who is in her 40s.
These statistics have influenced most major medical organizations to recommend women to schedule an annual screening mammogram beginning at age 40. Those organizations include:
- American College of Radiology
- Society of Breast Imaging
- National Comprehensive Cancer Network
- American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology
What Does an Abnormal Mammogram Result Mean?
Fortunately, for women who need additional testing after an abnormal mammogram, the follow-up results are normal up to 80 percent of the time. The most likely cause for additional testing is unclear images due to overlapping breast tissue layers. Luckily, with the advent of 3D mammography, callbacks for this reason have been reduced by nearly 40 percent.
Other reasons you may be called back for additional testing include:
- You have dense breast tissue that makes it more difficult to get an accurate scan.
- You have a benign (non-cancerous) cyst or tumor.
- The x-ray images were blurry.
- You don’t have a previous scan for your doctor to compare to, so he or she wants additional scans for in-depth study.
What Can I Expect at My Follow-Up Appointment?
If you’ve had an abnormal mammogram, you can expect to undergo one or more of the follow-up tests:
Diagnostic Mammogram – This mammogram is different from a regular screening mammogram. The test uses the same x-ray equipment, but the radiologist will take more images from different angles to get the most accurate diagnostic information.
Ultrasound – This painless and radiation-free test uses sound waves to compile a computer image of your breast tissue. You may be referred for an ultrasound for additional imaging.
MRI – During an MRI, you’ll lie face down inside a small tube while sensors capture detailed breast images. The test can take up to an hour, and although it’s painless, many people don’t like the feeling of confinement necessary for accurate testing.
In the majority of cases, additional testing shows that everything is normal and you can return to your regular mammogram schedule. Occasionally, more diagnostic testing, like a biopsy, is recommended.
Why Staying Calm is So Important
If you’ve received abnormal mammogram results, you may feel afraid, panicky, and anxious while awaiting the next steps. These feelings are normal. Don’t hesitate to confide in a friend or family member about your feelings or reach out to someone who’s been in your shoes. The American Cancer Society has a hotline at 1-800-227-2345 to offer answers and support.
Stop by PURE Mammography in Lake Grove, NY for your next mammogram. No appointment is necessary. We offer state-of-the-art 3D mammograms in a relaxing, compassionate, spa-like setting. Contact us for more information today.