The other day, I went in for my routine "squishing," or mammogram x-ray, as they are officially called.
A couple of days later I was surprised when I saw my primary care provider who looked up the results and told me I would need additional imaging. I was pretty sure she was looking at the wrong patient chart. However, she explained that there is a density in my breast tissue and I would need to have more imaging done. Really? Not me. I still thought they must be confused.
But, several days later, the report reads the same and I’ve even received a call from the radiology center to schedule the “additional imaging.” So I guess it is right--but what does it mean?
Routine mammograms without any symptoms are called screening mammograms. They take very basic x-ray views of the breast and look for any areas of suspicious changes that could be cancer.
Mammograms are then categorized based on the findings:
Category 3: Probably benign finding, initial short-term follow up
Category 4: Suspicious abnormality, usually requires biopsy
Category 5: Highly suggestive of malignancy, requires biopsy or surgical treatment
Category 6: Known biopsy proven malignancy
Usually if the screening mammogram is suspicious, additional imaging will be recommended. That imaging will focus directly on the area of concern. A diagnostic mammogram with compression views may be done. This is very similar to the screening mammogram except with many more pictures. An ultrasound may also be done to enable a better view of the tissue. This is done by using a gooey gel that is spread on the breast and a small imaging probe that runs over the area in question. MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is also used in some circumstances to evaluate suspicious lesions and high-risk women.
If imaging is still suspicious, the area may be recommended for biopsy. During biopsy, a needle removes tissue from the area or the tissue may be removed by a surgeon. The tissue can then be evaluated for cancer. If there is cancer, then you would be referred for treatment.
Being called in for more breast imaging is not anything to panic over. Most follow-up imaging will be reassuring. About 80 percent of breast biopsies will not be cancer. If you do have breast cancer, early diagnosis is critical to successful treatment. So make sure to get your mammograms and if you get called back, go in!