So, you just had your mammogram. While you feel like a weight has lifted, you might also be waiting in worry about your results. But leave those worries behind. We want to help boost your outlook with the knowledge to head into your waiting period with confidence.
Amy Campbell, MD, radiologist at Radiology Specialists of Florida at Florida Hospital, explains what you can expect after your mammogram.
Reading Your Results
If you are getting your mammogram from one of Florida Hospital’s imaging centers, rest assured that technology is on your side to get the most accurate results possible.
“It’s a very exciting time,” says Dr. Campbell. “We are in the process of upgrading our mammography equipment to eventually offer all of our patients 3-D breast imaging.”
With 3-D technology, radiologists like Dr. Campbell have more planes in which to see the breast tissue, allowing them to effectively peel back the layers of the breast and get a more detailed picture of specific areas of the breast that may be in question.
When reading your images, a radiologist is looking for subtle tissue abnormalities, which can be asymmetries, masses, calcifications or even skin changes. A mass may appear on the film as dark spot compared to surrounding tissue. Breast masses can include cysts, noncancerous solid tumors and malignancies. If a mass is present, the radiologist will evaluate it and compare it to prior mammograms to determine if it is benign or needs further testing.
Radiologists also look for calcifications that could indicate breast cancer. Calcifications show up as white dots or flecks on the mammogram. While calcifications are very common in many women, certain shapes and patterns of calcifications on mammograms can be a sign of early stage breast cancer.
Waiting for Your Results
Radiologists read mammograms within 24 hours and the patient’s physician receives the report within about 48 hours. Then, every woman gets a letter in the mail that says one of two things.
“Your letter will either explain that your results were normal and no action is needed until your next annual mammogram appointment; or, that the radiologist saw something that requires further evaluation and you need to have additional imaging performed,” says Dr. Campbell.
It’s important to note that if you do get a request for more images, the majority of these findings end up being benign.
“A call for more images is not a diagnosis of breast cancer — the radiologist just wants a better and closer look at a particular area of breast tissue. This might also prompt a closer look through other diagnostic tools like an ultrasound,” Dr. Campbell clarifies. “You’ll also be more likely to get a call back on your first mammogram because we don’t have prior mammograms to compare changes or findings to.”
Your mammogram results letter will also have another piece of important information about your breast health. New Florida law requires notification if you have dense breast tissue. If you do have dense breast tissue — common in younger women and those with a family history of dense breasts — you may consider the choice for an additional screening exam like an ultrasound.
“This law is new for Florida, so we find that many women have questions about what breast density notification means to them. Dense breast tissue can make it more difficult to read mammograms, so women are now made aware so they can take lead if they want additional screening,” explains Dr. Campbell.
She continues, “It is still important that women with dense breasts have a discussion with either their primary care provider or a breast radiologist if they are considering additional screening studies. While studies such as screening ultrasound do detect a small number of additional cancers they are not without tradeoffs such as increased false positives examinations and additional biopsies. The decision to add a supplemental screening study is not a simple one and patients should take the time to consider which option is best for them.”
Support at Every Step
No matter what turns your breast health journey takes, know that Florida Hospital is your beacon for support and expert breast health care.
This is why we want to make it easier for you to get your annual mammogram. If you are age 40 and over, have not had any breast symptoms, and have not had a mammogram in the last year, you do not need a physician’s order to get a screening mammogram. Learn more and schedule your mammogram today.