You've recently had your screening mammogram. A few days later, you get a call asking you to come back in. Your mind races — what could it mean? What did they find on the mammogram?
While it can feel scary, getting called back after a mammogram is actually quite common. It doesn't automatically mean you have cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, fewer than one in 10 women who are called back for more tests are found to have cancer.
Why you might be called back
Getting called back in usually means the doctor saw something they want to look at more closely. They might ask you more questions and send you for more advanced imaging.
Most changes in people's breasts are not caused by cancer. There are plenty of reasons to be called back after a mammogram, including:
- An image from your mammogram might need to be retaken.
- If you have dense breast tissue, it may make it difficult for doctors to see everything clearly in a mammogram.
- Your mammogram shows a non-threatening cyst or mass.
- Your doctor may want to perform follow-up tests in addition to your mammogram.
If this was your first mammogram, your doctor may want to examine an area more closely because they don't have a previous mammogram to compare it with.
What could happen at your next appointment
Your first mammogram, called a screening mammogram, was an x-ray to detect possible signs of breast cancer. To get a clear picture of your breast health, your doctor may want to perform other screenings or tests.
- Diagnostic mammogram: A second, diagnostic mammogram uses low-dose x-rays to capture more images of breast tissue. A radiologist will be present to compare current and past images. You'll receive immediate insights and recommendations for next steps.
- Ultrasound: An ultrasound provides a clearer picture of your breast tissue using sound waves. A technician will move a wand-like tool called a transducer along the outside of your breast. The whole process is pain free.
- MRI: For some patients, a doctor will use an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to create a more detailed picture of breast tissue or provide peace of mind. You'll lay on a table that moves slowly into a special machine. A radiologist will review and share your results.
- Biopsy: If your doctor can't get a clear image or wants to do further testing, they may request a biopsy. This is the only way to know for sure whether or not there are cancer cells present. Your doctor will use a needle or a small cut to take a little bit of breast tissue and study it under a microscope.
If it is cancer
If your doctor suspects breast cancer at your follow-up consultation, you'll be referred to a breast cancer specialist. There are a lot of things you can do to make this appointment more helpful and comfortable for you:
- Bring someone with you for emotional support and to listen
- Bring a list of questions
- Ask your doctor to explain anything you don't understand
- Take notes or ask to record the conversation to help you remember
The good news is, when a mammogram finds cancer earlier, you will start treatment sooner and achieve better outcomes. The number one driver of increased survival rates is getting a regular mammogram.
Whether you're looking to schedule your mammogram or have questions about a recent mammogram, you can contact us at (603) 602-5401.