While there may be differing opinions on the best ways to prevent breast cancer—not smoking, being active, avoiding certain deodorants and limiting alcohol—there is one thing that experts can agree on—getting routine mammogramsis important. Unfortunately, though, only half of women over 40 get a mammogram screening at least once every 2 years (which is the minimum recommended).
So, why is it that so many women seem to avoid this life-saving screening? Perhaps it’s due to some of the most common mammogrammyths; that you don’t need one unless you have an increased risk of breast cancer or that they’re painful and scary. Even though these misconceptions are mostly inaccurate, there may be a shred of truth—mammograms can be scary.
Well, it’s not actually the mammogram that’s scary; it’s what may come after—the dreaded call back. There’s no denying that it can be an anxiety-inducing experience. But surprisingly, only 10% of women who get a mammogram call back are later diagnosed with breast cancer. So, if it’s not breast cancer, what could it be?
1. You have a cyst.
Contrary to popular belief, lumps are not always cancerous. In fact, one of the most common causes of lumps, simple cysts, are benign growths that naturally develop with age and changes in hormone levels.
While cysts may feel either soft or hard depending on their location, all cysts are fluid-filled. But because it’s difficult to distinguish whether or not a mass is just a fluid-filled cyst or a solid lump with only a mammogram, additional testing is usually required.
2. You have dense breast tissue.
The breast tissue of every woman is made up of milk glands, milk ducts, dense breast tissue and fatty tissue. There aren’t always equal parts fatty tissue and dense tissue, though. Some women have higher amounts of one type or the other. The only caveat here is to know whether or not you have dense breast tissue, you have to get a mammogram.
For women with dense breast tissue, your mammogram will show solid white areas, making it hard to see through. On the other hand, fatty tissue appears to be dark and transparent on mammograms, so it is much clearer.
3. You have calcifications.
As women get older, it’s common for breast calcifications to form as a result of tiny mineral deposits in the breast tissue. Typically, these calcifications are harmless, but depending on the type, they may be cause for concern.
There are 2 types of calcifications:
Macrocalcifications.These are larger calcium deposits that are often the result of aging breast arteries, past injuries or swelling or inflammation.
Microcalcifications.These are tiny (less than 1/50 of an inch) specks of calcium. When many microcalcifications are seen in 1 area, they are called a cluster.
Mammograms are masters at detecting calcifications, but depending on the type of calcifications, a biopsy may be needed for further examination.
5. The image wasn’t quite right.
Whether it was an unclear picture, breast tissue was missed or the image just didn’t turn out, experts will err on the side of caution and schedule another mammogram.
4. Something seemed off.
It isn’t always a mass or cyst that catches a specialist’s attention—sometimes something just looks different or suspicious. To ensure accuracy and safety, another mammogram is done, this time focusing on the specific area of interest.
You got a mammogram call back, now what?
Getting a mammogram call back doesn’t have to be a stress-filled experience. In fact, it can serve as a reassuring reminder that experts are thoroughly examining every detail of your mammogram and doing everything they can to ensure lasting breath health.
However, to help cut down on the number of call backs, the trusted experts with the Gwinnett Breast Program utilize the very best technological, diagnostic and treatment options available. You can count on GMC to provide an unmatched level of care at every stage of the healing process.