Why are more tests needed after a screening mammogram?
After receiving your mammogram results, your doctor may recommend that you undergo additional examinations. This doesn’t mean that you have breast cancer.
In fact, almost one in ten women in the Québec Breast Cancer Screening Program will have mammogram results that aren’t clear—in other words, the mammogram will reveal abnormalities. In these cases, additional examinations are used to establish an accurate diagnosis.
For the vast majority of participants, further testing will not detect cancer.
What additional examinations are typically required?
A variety of examinations are used, depending on the specific situation. The testing that you undergo will be appropriate for your personal case.
It may be any of the following:
- Clinical breast examination in which a doctor will manually feel—or palpate—the breasts and armpit area.
- Additional x-rays of the breasts in order to better delineate the type of lesion.
- Ultrasound examination.
- Nonsurgical biopsy in which a small quantity of cells or tissue is removed using various types of needles.
- Surgical biopsy in which part of the lesion is removed surgically.
- Stereotactic localization, a procedure involving the computer-guided insertion of a needle in a non-palpable lesion. This needle serves to guide the very precise surgical removal of tissue from the lesion site.
How should you prepare for additional examinations?
If you’re like many women, you’ll be concerned about the idea of having to undergo more tests for the detection of a potential problem. But you shouldn’t worry excessively—remember that in nearly 95% of cases, these additional tests do not find cancer.
Practical advice to help you get ready for further testing
Since you’ll need to remove your clothes from the waist up, don’t wear a dress. Choosing two pieces—including a top you can easily take off—is more practical.
Talk with your doctor about your fears and concerns.
Find out how long it will take to receive your test results.
Try not to worry too much: most of the time, additional examinations show that no cancer is present. They are performed to ensure that everything is normal.
If you have to undergo additional x-rays, prepare yourself in the same way as for the screening mammogram.
If you have sensitive breasts, ask to schedule your appointment within 10 days of the onset of your period or when your breasts are less likely to be sensitive.
Don’t wear any of the following products on the day of your test: deodorant, powder, lotions, or perfume. These products cause false images that can be confused with lesions.
Before the test, it’s also a good idea to remove jewelry like necklaces, earrings, or other pieces that could interfere with the test.
Where should you go for your appointment—and when?
Your doctor can give you details about your situation and tests you may need, and can also provide contact information for PQDCS designated screening centers (CDDs) or designated referral centers (CRIDs) where additional testing can be done.
Should you prefer to have the examinations at another hospital, please discuss this with your doctor.
If you need additional examinations, we advise you to make an appointment with the referral centre as soon as possible.
When and how will you receive your results?
As soon as your results are available, you’ll receive them from your doctor or the center where the tests were performed.
If you would like more information about your mammogram results, additional examinations or anything else, do not hesitate to ask your doctor.