Follow-Up after Mammography

By  , Expert Content
Oct 04, 2012

Mammography when done to screen for breast cancer is usually normal in most women. The doctor will recommend further screening mammography every 1 to 2 years. Following the initial test you may be advised other tests and follow up if:

  • the mammogram is abnormal and there is a possibility of a cancer
  • the mammogram shows some abnormality or benign finding, which is not cancer but increases your risk of developing breast cancer; your  doctor may then recommend frequent follow up.


[Read: What is Mammography?]


Follow up for suspicious mammogram

Do not panic if you have an abnormal finding on a mammogram. Take heart, most abnormal findings on a mammogram tend to be a false positive abnormality (that is actually the breast is normal) or benign lesion and not breast cancer. Studies indicate that a woman who undergoes yearly screening mammograms between ages 40 and 49 has about a 30 per cent chance of having a false-positive mammogram. During follow up your doctor will recommend:

  • diagnostic mammogram
  • ultrasound
  • if needed, more invasive tests such as a biopsy.  


[Read: When to Undergo Mammography]


Diagnostic mammography: Diagnostic mammography needs more time than screening mammography as more views of the breast from several angles are taken and the x-rays exposure is also higher. The area with the suspicious lesion may be magnified to get a better and detailed picture to help make an accurate diagnosis. If you have symptoms of breast disease, such as a lump, pain, skin thickening, nipple discharge, or a change in breast size or shape your doctor may recommend diagnostic mammogram to check for breast cancer. A radiologist evaluates the images of diagnostic mammogram. If the images appear like benign lesion (such as cyst) and do not suggest cancer further testing may not be done.

This is a painless and non-invasive test which can help to view the internal structures of the breast. All the areas of the breast can be seen on an ultrasound, including the areas hard to visualise on a mammogram such as the area closest to the chest wall. The ultrasound can show if the breast lump has fluid or is solid. However ultrasound is not used in place of mammogram, it is used more often to further evaluate and complement the findings of a mammogram.


[Read: Purpose of Mammography]


Breast biopsy: If the findings of a mammogram and ultrasound suggest cancer the doctor will do a biopsy of breast tissue. The methods used to obtain a tissue sample include fine needle aspiration (a fine needle is used to take sample), core needle biopsy (a hollow needle is used for sampling), or ultrasound guided breast biopsy. The tissue obtained by biopsy is examined under microscope for abnormality or malignant changes. Your doctor will discuss with you and then decide on the biopsy procedure that is the most appropriate for you.



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