Understanding your Mammogram Results

  • ist2 293686 confident woman webMammography is an essential yearly evaluation of your breast health after age forty. It can show changes and abnormalities in the breasts, before they can be felt.
  • An unclear result means that more images or information is needed.
  • A normal or negative result means there are no signs of cancer.
An abnormal or positive result means there is:
  • an abnormal or suspicious area on the mammogram
  • a change from a past mammogram
Most breast changes are not cancer.

An abnormal mammogram or lump in your breast could be the result of a non-cancerous condition, such as:

Fibrocystic changes: Harmless cysts (fluid-filled sacs) in the breasts are common between the ages of 30 and 50. They often appear in both breasts, and may feel tender and become larger before menstruation.
Fibroadenomas: These harmless, painless lumps may feel solid, round and rubbery. They appear most often between the ages of 15 and 30.
Abnormalities: Inflammation, injury to the breast or other conditions can also cause lumps and abnormalities in the breast.

Further evaluation is the key to proper diagnosis and treatment.

Other exams may be recommended depending on the results of your mammogram. They may include:
  • Additional images or an ultrasound exam
  • Ultrasound: This exam uses sound waves to make an image of the breast. It can show if a lump is solid or a fluid-filled cyst.

You may need a biopsy

A biopsy is the removal of part or all of the abnormal area for evaluation.

Before you have a biopsy, make a list of questions for your health-care provider. For example, you might want to ask:

  • Why do I need a biopsy?
  • What are the different types of biopsies?
  • What are the benefits and risks of each type?
  • What kind of biopsy will I have?
  • What type of anesthesia will be used?
  • How will I feel during and after the procedure?
  • When will I get the results?

Being informed can help you feel more in control and more at ease.

A non-surgical biopsy is often used for diagnosis. Here are 2 types:

1. Fine-needle aspiration is often the first procedure used to evaluate a breast lump that can be felt. It is not painful, and can be done in a doctor's office.

ist2 5107511 cheerful nurse webWhat to expect:

  • The skin is cleaned with an antiseptic solution.
  • A local anesthetic may be given to numb the area.
  • A thin, hollow needle is inserted into the lump.
  • Tissue and, or fluid are drawn into the needle. If the lump is a fluid-filled cyst, the needle can draw out all the fluid. The lump will disappear. The sample is sent for evaluation.
  • After the procedure, a bandage may be placed over the area. There will not be a scar.

2. Stereotactic core biopsy can take samples from tiny abnormal areas or lumps detected only by mammography.

What to expect:

  • You lie down on a table. Your breast will be placed through an opening in the table.
  • A mammography machine takes images of your breast. A computer maps the exact location the area to be evaluated.
  • A local anesthetic may be given to numb the breast.
  • A hollow core needle is inserted into the abnormal area. Several tissue samples are taken. The samples are sent for evaluation.
  • After the procedure, a bandage will be placed over the area. There may be slight pain and some bruising, but no scar.

Surgical biopsies are performed in some cases. The procedure varies depending on the location and size of the abnormality.

Excisional biopsy:
A small incision is made on the breast. The entire lump and some tissue around it are removed. In some breast cancer cases, this is the only surgery needed. This may also be called a lumpectomy.
Incisional biopsy: This procedure is used for large lumps that are not suspected to be cancer. Part of the lump is removed through a small incision in the breast.
Needle-guided biopsy: In this procedure:

  • mammography is used to locate the abnormal area.
  • under local anesthesia, a needle and sometimes a wire are inserted into the area to mark the exact location.
  • an excisional biopsy is performed.
  • the removed tissue is immediately X-rayed to be sure it matches the suspicious area on the mammogram.

After your test....

Before leaving, you may need to wait for a short time while the images are being reviewed. In most cases, you can have something to eat and drink right after your test. You can also get back to the rest of your normal routine. Your doctor will let you know when the results of your test are ready. A letter will be sent directly to you with your mammogram results, and recommended follow up.


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