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Called back after a mammogram? Here's what to know

It is not unusual for women who have had a mammogram to be called back for a repeat test because of a suspicious result. You may be understandably frightened if this happens to you.

Often, abnormal areas on a mammogram turn out to be noncancerous tumors, cysts, scar tissue, fibrous breast tissue, and more. Furthermore, many women have dense breast tissue, which may prompt a callback.

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, health experts are putting the spotlight on the importance of early detection and prevention, and that includes scheduling a routine mammogram.

“Getting a mammogram once a year starting at the age of 40 is recommended,” said Brittany Schneller, NP-C, nurse practitioner for Aspirus. “A mammogram allows us to see areas in the breast that we may not otherwise feel on examination. Many times, breast cancer does not have any associated symptoms, therefore imaging plays an important role in early detection. On occasion, imaging prompts callbacks. Callbacks are necessary to obtain additional images in the breasts.”

To help make sure a suspicious finding on a mammogram is not cancer, your provider may want you to come back and have more tests, such as:

Another mammogram. A diagnostic mammogram is just like a screening mammogram, except it may focus on just a suspicious area.

An ultrasound test. This test, which uses sound waves instead of x-rays to examine the breast, can help distinguish a harmless fluid-filled cyst from a potentially cancerous solid mass.

An MRI scan. This test takes highly detailed pictures of the breast.

A biopsy. After having one or more of the other follow-up imaging tests, the provider may order a biopsy for a definitive conclusion on what the suspicious area represents. For a biopsy, a tissue sample from the breast is examined under a microscope.

For more information about mammogram recommendations and commonly asked questions, listen to this podcast by Dr. Michael Olson, physician radiologist for Aspirus.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment with Brittany Schneller, NP-C, call the Aspirus Ironwood Clinic at 906.932.1500.