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What happens after you get an abnormal mammogram?

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Quick Answer

An abnormal mammogram means the patient needs additional screening, such as another mammogram, biopsy or breast ultrasound, according to Cleveland Clinic. Abnormalities in a mammogram are often not cancer but instead normal tissue or a benign mass.

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Full Answer

A routine mammogram is called a screening mammogram. The usual protocol is to send results via mail within 30 days of the testing, notes the American Cancer Society. When a mammogram shows something suspicious, the patient often receives a phone call within about five days. The physician explains the results and schedules follow-up evaluations.

The follow-up exam may include both a physical exam of the breast and a diagnostic mammogram, states WebMD. The mammogram often includes a radiologist at the appointment to assist the technician in getting enough images at the correct angles. This mammogram focuses on the abnormalities found in the screening mammogram. This mammogram may take longer than the screening mammogram.

Ultrasound is also commonly used to evaluate the area, according to WebMD. If the ultrasound and mammogram don't provide accurate results, an MRI is sometimes used for additional evaluation. Results of the evaluations are often shared at the follow-up appointment. If the physician feels the abnormality is potentially cancerous, a biopsy may follow. Additional testing or a plan for treatment follows if the evaluations don't resolve the issue.

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