• Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quick GuideScreening Tests Every Woman Needs With Pictures

Screening Tests Every Woman Needs With Pictures

How will I receive the results of my 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. However, when there is a suspicious area on the mammogram or if additional images are needed, this information is usually relayed directly to the referring doctor or patient 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 my 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 alone is not sufficiently accurate to diagnose or exclude breast cancer, 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.

How much does a mammogram cost?

Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance companies generally cover the cost of mammography.


Venkataraman, S. MD. et al. "Breast imaging for cancer screening: Mammography and ultrasonography." UpToDate. Sep, 22, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/26/2015

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