If you've been having annual mammograms done as most women should when they turn 40, then they've probably become quite routine to you. Therefore, when you're called by your doctor and informed that there was an abnormal finding on your last mammogram, you may be understandably shocked and worried. If you're called back into your doctor's office after a routine mammography screening, knowing what to expect can help to quell your anxiety.
The Diagnostic Mammogram
The mammogram you're used to getting every year is known as a screening mammogram. It's essentially a simple X-ray of the breast tissue. However, if something abnormal is found during your screening mammogram, you will most likely be called back in for what is known as a diagnostic mammogram. The process is still similar in that you'll be getting X-rays done on your breast tissue, but this time, an X-ray technician will focus on the area of concern and obtain X-rays from many different angles.
A Possible Ultrasound or MRI
Depending on how well the technicians are able to X-ray the area of concern, you may also be required to have an ultrasound or even an MRI done for additional testing. Both of these tests are painless and do not take more than a few minutes, but can greatly help your doctor out in determining the possible cause of the abnormality in your screening mammogram.
Getting Further Results
The good news about being called in for a diagnostic mammogram and follow-up (if there is any) is that you will generally have a much better idea of your results by the end of your appointment. Generally, you will be told one of three things by your doctor. In a best-case scenario, your doctor will be able to rule out cancer right away and will return you to your typical one-year mammogram recalls. You may also be told that your mammogram is fine, but that you should return for another follow-up sooner than one year from now.
In a worst-case scenario, you will be required to have a biopsy done to determine whether or not the growth is cancerous.
If You Need a Biopsy
If it turns out that you do need a biopsy, this may be done on the same day as your follow-up appointment or you may be asked to come back at another date. Typically, breast biopsies are done using a needle, and the procedure is not too invasive or painful. Results can take between a few days to ten or more days, depending on how far away the testing lab is located and how complicated the testing is.