Abnormal Mammogram

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. Why?
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 otherwise.

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.

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