An abnormal mammogram result is not an unusual occurrence. Somewhere between 5% and 10% of all mammograms yield abnormal results and need further follow-up. Luckily, in the overwhelming majority of such cases, the abnormality is completely benign.
Doctors recommend that most women undergo a baseline mammogram between ages 35 and 40. Women with a family history of breast cancer often start earlier, but breast cancer risk increases with age, so by age 40 all women should have their first baseline mammogram. After that, most doctors will recommend a regular annual screening mammogram. The screening mammogram is a woman’s first line of defense, and can be crucial to spotting small growths which cannot be felt during a self-exam.
After undergoing a mammogram, the patient should receive her results within a few days, usually from her referring physician. In the case of an abnormal mammogram result, the doctor will undoubtedly need other tests, to more accurately assess the nature of the abnormality. This could include a breast ultrasound, MRI, another mammogram or a biopsy.
On the other hand, an abnormal mammogram may show a growth which has an irregular border. Such a growth could potentially be cancerous. In that case, the doctor is likely to do a breast biopsy. In a biopsy, a small amount of tissue is removed from the area of concern and tested for cancerous cells.
An abnormal mammogram may also show calcification’s, tiny deposits of calcium within the breast tissue. Breast calcification’s are sometimes completely benign, but they may also be cancerous. After studying the breast images carefully, the doctor will decide how to classify any calcification’s which appear on the abnormal mammogram. If necessary, a biopsy may follow.
The important thing to remember is that most abnormal mammogram results do not indicate a serious problem or condition. Breast cancer in its earlier stages is difficult to distinguish from the several kinds of benign breast growths which occur commonly. But the majority of aberrations shown on mammograms are not cancerous, nor even dangerous.