A Guide to Understanding Your Mammography Results

The day has finally come, and you have gotten your mammogram. The test was brief, but it’s not over yet. You have to find out the results. The technologist will be able to tell you at the appointment if the images are readable, but a radiologist must look at the images to determine if there is something of concern.

While you go back to your regular schedule, the images from your mammogram are sent off to be read. At ella health, we make them available to the radiologist right away so that we can get them back to you as soon as possible, generally within 24 hours.

When the radiologist is done, we send the results to your doctor. However, we know that you want to know what is happening as soon as possible, so we will also contact you directly to give you that information and answer any questions.

It is important to note that although mammography is a breast cancer screening exam, it doesn’t generally confirm that you have cancer. Rather, it helps us identify lesions or growths that could be cancer.  There is a range of things that may show up during a mammogram including a benign tumor or overlapping tissue that can occur when the breast is compressed for the exam.

What if everything appears normal?

In this case, we will tell you there was nothing of concern, and that you should come back in a year. You should continue to do breast self-exams monthly and monitor your breasts for any changes in appearance. If you note any changes, we urge you to call your physician.

What if there is something of concern?

If the radiologist notes an area of concern, or if the radiologist needs more images, we will help you arrange a follow up exam.

We will talk with you about what the radiologist has noted and make an appointment for you at a nearby diagnostic center. We will send your images and records to the center so that you do not have to take them there yourself. The diagnostic center will give you the results of that follow up appointment, along with sending them to your doctor and to us.  At any point, we are available to answer your questions.

Our radiologists use a common reporting scale called the Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System assessment, BI-RADS, developed by the American College of Radiologists. This commonly used system helps us communicate better with your doctor. Knowing your score can help you understand more about your health.

BI-RADS™ Assessment Categories:

  • 0 Incomplete The mammography images from your mammogram do not provide enough information to make a diagnosis. There is a need for follow-up imaging.
  • 1 Negative There is no indication of an abnormality. Routine screening including breast self-exams and an annual mammogram should continue.
  • 2 Benign The radiologist may note a finding such as a lymph node within the breast, breast implants, or a fibroadenoma, which is a solid lump of benign cells. Routine screening including breast self-exams and an annual mammogram should continue.
  • 3 Probably Benign There is an abnormality that is likely benign, but there is enough of a concern to warrant a follow-up exam.
  • 4 Suspicious Abnormality There is an abnormality that is not characteristic of cancer, but could still be malignant. There should be a follow-up exam. A biopsy is recommended.
  • 5 Highly Suspicious of Malignancy There is a lesion that appears to be cancer. This should be followed with a biopsy.
  • 6 Known Biopsy Proven Malignancy There is a lesion that has been confirmed to be malignant.

When you get a mammogram, it is helpful to provide as much information about your own and your family’s medical history as possible so that doctors can understand more about your specific risks. It is important to know, for instance, if you have been previously diagnosed with a benign tumor or whether close relatives have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

We keep your records on file so that we can compare your images from one year to the next. If you are coming to ella health for the first time, but have had a mammogram elsewhere, we can obtain those records. If this is your first breast cancer screening exam, you will get what is called a baseline mammogram that can be used for future comparisons.

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