Results of Your Mammogram

We know that waiting for the results of a mammogram can cause some patients to feel anxious and uncertain. Our caring professionals at Evangelical’s Thyra M. Humphreys Center for Breast Health are here for you to help you understand your results and make sure that you receive any follow-up testing and care that you may need.

Mammogram Results

If Your Results Are Normal

If your mammogram results are normal, the radiologist reviewing your mammogram will send a letter letting you know that your results are normal. You should receive this letter about a week after your test. If a doctor referred you for your mammogram, we’ll also share the results with your doctor.

If Your Results Indicate a Need for Additional Testing

The results of some mammograms will prompt us to contact you and your physician about a need for additional testing. This happens with about 10 percent of the mammograms we perform at Evangelical. This additional testing helps ensure the accuracy of the results and helps prevent unnecessary surgery.

Abnormalities Are Not Always Cancer

Most breasts show some abnormalities such as calcifications or other masses. A radiologist will only interpret these issues as abnormalities when they are sufficiently different from those of the average patient.

Common abnormalities include:

Calcifications

Calcifications, also called microcalcifications, are mineral deposits in the breast. They can be caused by:

  • dried secretions
  • trauma to the breast
  • blood that has been reabsorbed
  • dead tissue cells

These small calcium deposits often appear in clusters on a mammogram. They have no relationship to the level of calcium you consume in your diet. However, these calcifications can indicate changes within the breast. Certain patterns of calcifications are associated with cancers. Others are associated with benign (non-cancerous) breast diseases.

Dense Areas of Breast Tissue

Some areas of breast tissue can be thicker than others and may cause the radiologist to recommend additional diagnostic testing.

Masses

Sometimes, masses shown on a mammogram can be an indicator of cancer. Other masses are benign (not cancerous). To determine if a mass should be classified as “suspicious,” the radiologist needs to see the border of the mass very clearly. This may require additional mammography views or other diagnostic testing.

Cysts

Cysts are accumulations of fluid. Often, cysts don’t require any treatment. However, sometimes a physician may drain the cyst with a small needle.

Commonly Asked Questions

If I Need Additional Tests, Does This Mean You Think I Have Cancer?

No. Most of the patients whose mammograms suggest a need for additional testing don’t have cancer. However, it’s our job to be extremely cautious and thorough when it comes to protecting your health. We want to ensure that we don’t overlook any potential problems. Often, a different mammography view or other test will make it clear if there is any need for any concern.

If I Have to Come Back for More Testing, Does This Mean the Technologist Made a Mistake?

No. The reason we most often ask someone to return for additional views is because of a “summation shadow.” This occurs when several insignificant areas of dense tissue appear together in one location on a mammogram, creating a shadow that appears to be a  major/significant density. Additional views, with compression, can help us to separate these minor densities from each other.

The most common reason for us to have to repeat a test is because a patient moved during the imaging. However, this occurs during fewer than 1% of the mammograms we perform.

Why Do I Need an Ultrasound Exam if a mammogram is the Best Test for Detecting Breast Cancer?

Mammography is the single best test for revealing breast abnormalities. However, it is not able to indicate whether a lump that you feel or a mass on a mammogram is solid or cystic (fluid-filled). This information is very important and will help doctors decide whether you need to have a biopsy.

What Does the Category Shown at the Bottom of My Results Letter Indicate?

Category 0
The radiologist does not currently have enough information to issue a finding. Additional imaging, including the use of spot compression, magnification, ultrasound, or special mammographic views may be needed to help the radiologist make a more complete evaluation.

Category 1
The radiologist determined that your mammogram results are normal.

Category 2
This category indicates that your mammogram results are normal but the radiologist saw the presence of some benign conditions such as calcifications, calcified fibroadenomas (non-cancerous tumors), or intramammary lymph nodes (lymph nodes within breast tissue).

Category 3
The radiologist found an abnormality that is probably benign but needs to be monitored.

If your mammogram shows a Category 3 finding, we strongly recommend you have follow-up mammograms every 6 months for a year and once a year after that. Close monitoring will allow doctors to notice any change in your condition that could indicate the presence of cancer without your having to have a biopsy. We also offer surgical consultations to every patient who receives a Category 3 rating.

Category 4 or 5
The radiologist has found a “suspicious” lump and is recommending that you have a biopsy. Although these classifications don’t necessarily mean that you have breast cancer, we strongly encourage patients with Category 4 and 5 ratings to consult with one of our experienced, board-certified surgeons. 

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