Mammogram (cont.)

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How does a patient receive the results of the mammogram?

The results of the mammogram can be given to the patient either by the radiologist at the completion of the mammogram or by the patient's doctor who ordered the mammogram. In many cases, it will be by both doctors. In some cases, the patient will receive a card in the mail with the results of the mammogram. The report of the mammogram generally takes a few days to reach the referring doctor by mail. However, when there is a suspicious area on the mammogram, this information is usually relayed directly to the referring doctor by phone so that further evaluation of this area can be done expeditiously. A patient should call the doctor if she has not received the results of a mammogram in a reasonable period of time. The patient should not just assume the mammogram was normal.

What if the mammogram is abnormal?

Do not panic if you are told that your mammogram is abnormal or that there is a "spot" on your mammogram. An abnormal mammogram does not mean you have cancer. The overwhelming majority of abnormal mammograms are caused by benign (harmless) processes. In some cases, it may just be an area of thicker or denser breast tissue, a cyst, or a benign lump such as a fibroadenoma. When a mammogram detects a suspicious area, the patient may be advised to obtain further mammograms of that area, to have an ultrasound or other imaging study of the breast, to see a specialist in diseases of the breast (this is usually a general surgeon), or to have a biopsy performed of the suspicious area.

A breast biopsy is the removal of a piece of breast tissue for examination under a microscope. The biopsy can be performed surgically, in which an incision is made and the area removed, or it can be done as a stereotactic core biopsy. Stereotactic core biopsy is a technique of removing samples of the suspicious area without the need of traditional surgery. In this technique, the doctor, with the aid of a special mammography machine and a computer, can identify precisely the abnormality in the breast and then obtain very thin core samples of breast tissue with a special needle. This biopsy test is done with only a local anesthetic in the area of the needle puncture and is generally painless.

Fortunately, most breast biopsies give benign results. While mammography is not sufficiently accurate to diagnose or exclude breast cancer alone, it is currently the best method available to screen for breast cancer. Since its more widespread routine use, breast cancers are found when they are significantly smaller and more curable. More women are surviving breast cancer as a result of mammography and early cancer treatment. Continued use of routine mammography should be encouraged until a better alternative in breast cancer detection has been found.

Medically reviewed by Steven Nelson, MD; Board Certified Obstetrics and Gynecology


"Breast imaging: Mammography and ultrasonography"

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/18/2014

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