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What Happens after an Abnormal Mammogram?

By Jami Yontz
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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After abnormal mammogram test results are returned, a few other tests will be conducted in order to confirm a diagnosis. An abnormal mammogram does not necessarily mean that something is wrong, though many women may fear the worst. Physicians will order a second mammogram test if the original films taken were blurry or unclear. A fine needle aspiration, core needle biopsy, or surgical biopsy may be completed if the physician detects a mass in the breast tissue. The physician may also do an ultrasound to visualize any masses.

An abnormal mammogram may be a result of blurry scans, or a physician could order a set of diagnostic mammograms that focus on one area of the breast which was of concern to the doctor. The test is performed by asking the woman to stand in front of a machine and place her breast on a clear plastic sheet. There is another clear plastic sheet above the woman, which lowers down and compresses the breast. The woman must stand as still as possible, while an x-ray machine takes a black and white image of the breast tissue.

If the results of the original or diagnostic x-ray shows suspicious masses or tissue, a physician may order a fine needle aspiration. The long, thin needle is inserted through the breast into the mass or lump. A physician will extract fluid from the mass and test the cells for abnormalities.

Core-needle biopsies use a larger needle with a hollow center. The needle is inserted numerous times in order to abstract enough breast tissue to examine. Tissue from the mass is examined for cancerous cells, but there is no need for stitches after the procedure.

A surgical biopsy will be performed to remove a section or the entire lump contained within the breast tissue. The woman will be sedated during the procedure, which requires the surgeon to make a cut in the breast tissue to remove the lump and a margin of tissue surrounding the mass. Breast tissue will be examined for abnormal cells, and the surrounding tissue will be tested to determine if the cells have spread beyond the location of the tumor. This surgical procedure could affect the look and feel of the woman’s breast, depending on the size and location of the mass.

Abnormal mammogram results may be further tested through the use of ultrasound technology. Depending on the woman’s original films, the physician may order an ultrasound to be able to see the lumps and determine if the masses are solid or if the tumors or cysts are filled with fluid. The ultrasound produces sound waves at a high level, and theses waves bounce off of the breast tissue and create a sharp image of the mass. The physician may order a fine needle aspiration, core-needle biopsy, or surgical biopsy after seeing the images produced during the ultrasound procedure.

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Discussion Comments
By Pippinwhite — On Mar 03, 2014

I was called back for more films at my first mammogram. Talk about scary!

Turns out, the radiologist wanted to focus on an area where I knew I'd had a little fibrocystic nodule pop up before, and that's exactly what it was.

Usually, the radiologist will order more films for a suspicious mammogram, and then if he or she suspects something else, will frequently send the woman to get an ultrasound that day. Most hospitals have an ultrasound lab, so they can have the procedure done right away. This is critical because, once an abnormality has been spotted, the faster the woman receives a diagnosis and begins treatment, the better the prognosis

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