A mammogram is recommended yearly for women between 40 and 49 years of age. For those 50 years old and above, it is recommended once every two years. But what does it mean if an abnormality is found during a mammogram? Does it indicate breast cancer? What are the next steps to take?
Adjunct Associate Professor Yong Wei Sean, Senior Consultant,
Division of Surgical Oncology,
National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), a member of the
SingHealth group, answers. (iStock photo)
"It can be unsettling for any woman to be told that her mammogram results are abnormal. But this does not mean she has a tumour or that she has cancer," explains Adj Assoc Prof Yong Wei Sean .
According to BreastScreen Singapore (BSS) in Singapore, for every 1,000 women screened, about 100 are called back for assessment. Of these, about 30 would need to undergo a breast biopsy, and about 5 to 8 would have breast cancer.
Therefore, if an abnormality has been found in your mammogram, it is important to follow up with further tests.
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Next steps: Assessing abnormality in your mammogram
At your follow-up appointment, it is likely that you may need to go through the following:
This is a more detailed mammogram that may take longer than the usual 15 to 20 minutes required for your screening mammogram.
Adj Assoc Prof Yong explains, "The X-ray technician will take a few more X-rays of your breast, especially if the previous images from your screening mammogram were not clear enough." – that is, additional magnification or cone compression views may need to be taken of those areas in the breast that are of particular concern.
Doctor's tips on how to prepare for a mammogram
During this process, the technician will apply a cool, clear gel to your breast before placing a microphone-shaped device known as a transducer on it. The transducer releases high-frequency sound waves and picks up the echoes, creating an image of the breast tissues on a computer. An ultrasound is useful to further study an area of abnormality in the breast.
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) test
If the abnormality can't be confirmed by the ultrasound, you may need an MRI test. In this case, magnets and radio waves are used to create detailed pictures of the internal breast. This test is done in very select cases, where the patient has specific indications.
What is a breast biopsy and when is it required?
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