After a mammogram: When you have to go back

For a lot of women, working up the nerve to go in for a mammogram is tough. But it’s an effort that’s certainly worth the anxiety, especially if you’re 40 or older or if you have a family history of breast cancer.

And after a mammogram, many women receive notice that the radiologist wants to get another look at an area of breast tissue. That news can sound ominous, but it isn’t an indication that something’s wrong and it certainly doesn’t mean that you have cancer.

Dense breast tissue often is at the root of the request. When breast tissue is dense (and the younger you are, the denser your tissue), radiologists have a harder time getting a good view inside it.

The most common reasons that you might get called back after a mammogram include:

  • Calcifications: These are little areas of calcium in the ducts of the breast. 90 percent of them are benign. In some cases, the radiologist will want to obtain a biopsy of the area.
  • Lumps: Many lumps end up being fibroadenomas—benign solid tumors that are common in young women. The radiologist might recommend a six-month follow-up or a biopsy to confirm that the lump is a fibroadenoma. If the lump looks more concerning, you’re likely to have a biopsy.
  • Cysts: Very common in breast tissue, cysts also are often painful. They can be drained under ultrasound-guided assistance to relieve the pain. Sometimes, cysts go away without any intervention.
  • Asymmetry: Basically, this is any spot in your breast that looks unusual. It could be a glandular area that when compressed just looked a little different. Taking more views at higher magnification can give the radiologist a better idea what’s happening.

If you need a biopsy, you usually can have it performed at the breast center or in a physician’s office. It’s an outpatient procedure that uses only local anesthesia. And you won’t have to wait long for answers: Most biopsy results are returned within three days.

Remember: Most mammograms show no problems. In fact, one in ten women gets called back in for further testing (especially those who are having first mammograms, in which case the radiologist has nothing to compare the results with). Of those one in ten, only two end up having biopsies, and about 75 percent of those biopsies show benign conditions.

Don’t let fear keep you away from this simple, life-saving screen! Prevention is key to fighting breast cancer.

If you have questions about mammograms, or any other women’s health concern, please call 317-338-4-HER or contact me by using this form.

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