- Causes of Abnormal Results
- How Accurate Are Mammograms?
- Different Types of Mammograms
- Why You May Need an Ultrasound
- Other Tests to Detect Breast Cancer
- Related Resources
So if you are summoned back to the doctor’s office for further testing after a mammogram, your chances of being diagnosed with cancer are low.
What can cause abnormal mammogram results?
In some cases, especially when a sonomammography is done, noncancerous masses may show up as potentially cancerous lesions. Your doctor will need to do a biopsy to confirm if the suspicious mass is indeed cancer. The chance of having a false positive result after one mammogram is about 7%-12%.
However, it’s important to be aware of the fact that if you have a false positive result, you may be at a slightly higher risk of developing cancer in the next 10 years. Rather than letting this terrify you, you can think of it as a heads up. Getting annual breast scans will help detect any future cancerous masses well before they spread in your body.
How accurate are mammograms?
The diagnostic accuracy for mammograms increases for women over 50 years of age. That means that the older you get, the less likely it is that your mammogram will produce a false positive report. The technology used today can usually detect breast abnormalities before they can be felt during a breast exam.
- About 7%-10% of women who have a screening mammogram are asked to come back for more testing (although only a small percentage of these women are later diagnosed with breast cancer).
- An estimated 17% of breast cancers may be missed by mammography. The number may rise as high as 30% for women with dense breasts, making the inclusion of a clinical breast exam in overall diagnosis even more important.
- Combining mammography with a clinical exam can diagnose about 4% more cancers than just mammography.
What are the different types of mammograms?
Regular mammograms can help detect breast cancer in the early stages. Mammograms also help diagnose some early precancerous conditions and early-stage cancers that appear as tiny calcifications (microcalcifications) on mammography, which are not detectable by physical examination. There are two types of mammograms.
- Screening mammogram: Usually performed annually in cases where there is no known problem.
- Diagnostic mammogram: Performed when there is a known problem that requires careful evaluation. Diagnostic mammograms provide much more extensive images than screening mammograms, such as views from additional angles and compression or blow-up views. Often an ultrasound and biopsy will be done in addition to the mammogram if there is a noticeable lump to confirm whether it is cancerous or aggressive.
Why do I need an ultrasound after a mammogram?
One of the main reasons your doctor may recommend an ultrasound after a mammogram is if you have dense breast tissue. Dense breast tissue isn’t abnormal; however, it can make it more difficult for a mammogram to detect cancer cells that may be hidden in the tissue.
An ultrasound can help provide a better diagnose after an abnormal mammogram because:
- A mammogram uses regular X-ray technology. Fatty tissue shows up as gray and dense tissue shows up as white. A cancerous tumor, however, also shows up as white.
- A breast ultrasound uses sound waves that bounce off tissue, with different tissues making different echo patterns. These patterns are studied to detect whether there are any cancer cells or abnormal tissue.
- While a mammogram shows a full picture of the breast and where the dense tissue is located, an ultrasound focuses on that dense tissue and shows what is inside it. It can therefore indicate whether there is a suspicious mass that needs to be confirmed through needle biopsy.
What other tests are involved in detecting breast cancer?
Apart from mammograms and ultrasounds, other diagnostic tests may be required to detect breast cancer along with clinical breast examination:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Imaging of the breast is done using radio waves, magnetic fields, and computer imaging, offering a more detailed picture of the breast than a mammogram. This test is recommended for women with an above-average breast cancer risk due to certain factors such as family history or BRCA mutation.
- Nipple discharge exam: Fluid is collected from nipple discharge and then sent to the lab to look for cancer cells. Most nipple secretions are not cancerous and more likely to be caused by an injury, infection, or benign (noncancerous) tumor.
- Genetic screening: Women with elevated risk factors (such as a family history of breast cancer) may undergo genetic screening to see if they have mutations that put them at higher risk for developing the disease.
- Biopsy: Surgical removal of suspicious tissues for further examination. The type of biopsy done will depend on the location and size of the breast lump.
Currently, no diagnostic test other than a biopsy is 100% accurate. Since mammograms can cause false positive or false negative results, it’s important for women to be vigilant about regular self-examination, contact their doctors immediately if they notice anything unusual, and undergo annual testing to ensure early detection.
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The American Society of Breast Surgeons. Position Statement on Screening Mammography. https://www.breastsurgeons.org/docs/statements/Position-Statement-on-Screening-Mammography.pdf
Top What Percentage of Abnormal Mammograms Are Cancer Related Articles
Breast cancer is an invasive tumor that develops in the mammary gland. Breast cancer is detected via mammograms, breast self-examination (BSE), biopsy, and specialized testing on breast cancer tissue. Treatment of breast cancer may involve surgery, radiation, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. Breast cancer risk may be lowered by managing controllable risk factors.
What you should know about breast cancer
- Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women.
- One in every eight women in the United States develops breast cancer.
- There are many types of breast cancer that differ in their capability of spreading (metastasize) to other body tissues.
- The causes of breast cancer are unknown, although medical professionals have identified a number of risk factors.
- There are many different types of breast cancer.
- Breast cancer symptoms and signs include
- a lump in the breast or armpit,
- bloody nipple discharge,
- inverted nipple,
- orange-peel texture or dimpling of the breast's skin (peau d'orange),
- breast pain or sore nipple,
- swollen lymph nodes in the neck or armpit, and
- a change in the size or shape of the breast or nipple.
- Breast cancer can also be symptom free, which makes following national screening recommendations an important practice.
- Breast cancer is diagnosed during a physical exam, by a self-exam of the breasts, mammography, ultrasound testing, and biopsy.
- Treatment of breast cancer depends on the type of cancer and its stage (0-IV) and may involve surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy.
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Is a Breast Ultrasound or Mammogram Better?The breast cancer diagnostic test best suited to you depends on your age, your symptoms, and the structure of your breasts. As a rule of thumb, a breast ultrasound is more accurate in women younger than 45 years. A mammography is preferred in women older than 45 years.
MammogramMammogram is a test that produces an image of the breast tissue on film. The technique is referred to as mammography. Mammography can visualize normal and abnormal structures within the breast such as cysts, calcifications, and tumors looking for breast cancer. The first baseline mammogram for a woman should be between the ages of 35 to 40.
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What Age Should a Woman Get a Mammogram?Regular mammography (X-ray breast imaging) helps in detecting breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before a breast lump is noticeable in self-exam. Women should start getting a mammogram every year at age 45, assuming they have no risk factors that would require earlier screening, but may dial back to every couple years after 55 when the peak statistical risk of breast cancer has passed.
Where Is the First Place Breast Cancer Spreads?Breast cancer starts in the breast tissues and usually first spreads to the lymph nodes under the arms, around the collarbone and inside the breasts.