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What Happens After the Mammogram?

Posted Date: November 8, 2021

Learn more from Memorial Oncologist Dr. Pamela Tuli

We asked one of our oncologists, Dr. Pamela Tuli, some of the most common questions people have after a mammogram. Read on for the answers to your questions!

Why does someone get called back after a mammogram? What would cause concern?

Dr. Tuli: Getting called back after a screening mammogram is fairly common, and it doesn't necessarily mean that you have breast cancer. In fact, only 1 in 10 women who are called back are found to have breast cancer. It’s not uncommon to be called back if it is your first mammogram when there are no previous mammograms for comparison. Also, if you have dense breasts, it may be harder to get a good image during a routine mammogram, requiring additional views. Sometimes the first image was just unclear.

Based on the diagnosis, what are treatment options for those who have breast cancer?

Dr. Tuli: If you are found to have breast cancer, the next step would be to see a surgeon as well as a medical oncologist to determine your best treatment plan. Your treatment plan will depend on your specific type of breast cancer and its stage but may involve surgery, including either a lumpectomy (removing only the cancer tissue, allowing you to keep most of your breast) or mastectomy (removing the entire breast), radiation, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy or a combination of these.

What advice do you have for someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer?

Dr. Tuli: No matter what type of breast cancer you have, meet with your entire care team, including a medical oncologist and surgeon, prior to initiating any treatment. This multidisciplinary approach will help to ensure that every aspect of your situation is taken into account to formulate a treatment plan that is best for you. For example, sometimes chemotherapy prior to surgery is preferred and can improve long-term outcomes for certain types of breast cancer.

How can people support a loved one who has received this diagnosis?

Dr. Tuli: Everyone will respond differently to their breast cancer diagnosis and its treatment, but it is an emotional time for patients. It is often difficult to know exactly how to support your loved one during this time, but just letting them know you are there for them is one of the best things you can do. When a patient is first diagnosed, they receive a lot of information regarding their diagnosis and treatment plan that can be overwhelming and hard to remember. Going with your loved one to their doctors' appointments to be a second pair of ears to help remember the details of what is said at the appointment can be quite helpful.

During treatment, patients may be fatigued and not feel their best, so offering to help with household chores or errands such as picking up groceries can be helpful.

What do you wish more people knew about breast cancer?

Dr. Tuli: Some women think that they are not at risk for breast cancer because they do not have a family history of breast cancer. However, only a minority of breast cancer diagnoses, about 5%, are due to a genetic predisposition. In other words, most breast cancer is not due to family history. The most common risk factors for breast cancer are being a woman and increasing age. Screening mammograms are important even if you have no family history of breast cancer.

Outcomes for breast cancer are better when it is found early. Unfortunately, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many have gotten behind on their regular screenings. If your mammogram is past due, get with your health care provider to get it scheduled.