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Most mammogram callbacks don’t mean cancer

A woman with a worried expression checks her phone.

Oct. 7, 2022—It's not unusual for women who've 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. But know this important fact: Most callbacks do not result in a breast cancer diagnosis.

Often, abnormal areas on a mammogram turn out to be a noncancerous cyst or tumor. Also, many women have dense breast tissue, which might make a mammogram initially hard to read.

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

Another mammogram. A diagnostic mammogram is just like a screening mammogram, except that it may focus just on the 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 solid mass, which may be cancer.

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, your doctor may order a biopsy if there's still a chance the abnormal area could be cancer. For a biopsy, a tissue sample from the breast is examined under a microscope.

It can take a few days or longer to learn the results of a biopsy. This can be an anxious time. Try not to worry too much. Most women who have a breast biopsy turn out not to have cancer. You and your doctor are doing the right thing by making sure all is OK.

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