My doctor informed me that my mammogram showed
unusual cell formations. What does this mean? She told me
it was not malignant, but wants to re-check in three months.
For many women who go in for a mammogram, the experience
can make them nervous, which certainly doesn't help things when
results come back that don't give them a clean bill of health.
However, in many cases, whatever shows up during the screening
is generally nothing to worry about.
The American College of Radiology has 5 categories for
classifying mammography results. A finding of "0" means that the
mammogram needs to be re-done, the quality of the pictures was
not adequate. A "1" is what every woman wants--that is negative.
A "2" indicates the identification of an abnormality, but one that is
clearly benign or not harmful. These are things like calcium in
benign growths called fibroadenomas.
A finding of "3" is what is being described here. It is much like the
above described "2", an abnormality that is very likely benign. Still,
there is a slight doubt. Rather than subjecting the woman to a
biopsy right off the bat, a repeat mammography at a short interval
(like 3 to 6 months) is scheduled. What the doctors will look for is
changes in the area in question. A harmless or benign tumor will
have little or no change in this time period. A cancer will likely have
noticable growth and change. If there is significant change, the
doctor will likely schedule a biopsy to see exactly what it is.
Even the next level up, or "4" is merely suspicious for cancer.
Biopsies right off the bat are considered at this level, but not
always. Only level "5" is considered a high chance of cancer. In
these cases, it is treated like it is cancer until shown to be
Repeat testing at a short interval is a common response to slightly
abnormal screening test results that have a low chance of being
serious. It is a common strategy in dealing with abnormal Pap
smear results, too. It keeps on top of the problem without
subjecting women to needless invasive procedures, such as
biopsies. I just wish this was explained better to patients who have
these results. There is very little chance of cancer to worry about.