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Mammograms, or X-rays of the breast, help save lives by detecting cancer early. These screenings can locate breast tumors not found by breast exam — before physical symptoms develop.
Doctors generally recommend annual mammograms starting at age 40, but possibly earlier and/or more frequent based on your individual risk factors.
While you may be used to getting these screenings, you may not be prepared for hearing your mammogram was abnormal.
If this happens, don’t panic. It’s not uncommon and many times abnormal findings on a mammogram are not breast cancer. Your doctor will likely schedule follow-up tests to get more information.
Keep in mind, if you recently had the COVID-19 vaccine, a possible side effect of the vaccine is temporarily swollen lymph nodes on the side where you got your shot. This may show up on a mammogram and result in a call back for additional breast imaging which otherwise would not be necessary. Make sure your doctor is aware if and when you had your COVID-19 vaccine.
The following follow-up tests are often used alongside mammography when results are inconclusive or additional information is needed:
Follow-up tests may show a benign growth, calcification or breast condition like a cyst. Calcifications may be related to older age, past injury to the breast or an infection in the breast.
If there are no signs of cancer, you’ll likely return to your regular schedule of screening mammograms and breast exams.
If cancer is discovered, a breast cancer diagnosis will provide more information about the type and stage of the disease. Breast cancers found by a screening mammogram are often caught early, making treatment more successful.
At Edward-Elmhurst Health, our breast cancer imaging services include advanced tools, tests and procedures that rely on the latest techniques for a precise diagnosis.
Before starting treatment, you’ll be evaluated closely by a team of breast cancer experts from multiple disciplines. This is when all of your providers get together in the same room to closely review your imaging tests and biopsy results and determine the right treatment path for you. Throughout your care, the team continues to meet weekly to review your progress.
If your biopsy results are positive, you'll receive more detailed next steps, such as an appointment at the Breast Biopsy Results Clinic to meet with a radiologist and a breast nurse navigator and discuss a plan of action.
Learn more about the Breast Cancer Center at Edward-Elmhurst Health.
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