Finding a shadow on a mammogram mean cancer

If you have concerns about a mammogram, call your doctor or go to your local hospital emergency department immediately.

If you have a mammogram, don’t wait more than 10 minutes to call your doctor or go to the emergency department.

What if a shadow isn’t a problem?

If you don’t remember seeing a shadow on your earlier mammogram, don’t panic. There are a lot of possible explanations for the lack of a shadow.

You could have:

  • A change in position or technique
  • A new device
  • A new or different amount of breast tissue
  • The day or time of the exam

You could also be just having a bad day and not be feeling up to a mammogram.

If you don’t have a shadow, don’t panic. Call your doctor or go to the emergency department.

There’s no need to rush to the hospital if you don’t have a shadow on a mammogram.

If you do have a shadow on a mammogram, make sure your doctor or the emergency department knows what you’re feeling because it’s important to get a diagnostic mammogram.

A diagnostic mammogram will help guide your treatment plan.

Why is a shadow important on a mammogram?

You may have seen a shadow on your mammogram if you do have breast cancer.

If you have a shadow on a mammogram and you’re at high risk for breast cancer based on family history, you may want to get a diagnostic mammogram.

If you’re at high risk for breast cancer, you may need annual mammograms starting at age 40.

A diagnostic mammogram is the best way to see if you have breast cancer.

If you have a shadow on a diagnostic mammogram, you may need to get a diagnostic biopsy.

If your doctor can’t tell for sure if you have cancer based on your mammogram and your medical history, your doctor may order a diagnostic biopsy.

A diagnostic biopsy is a procedure to remove a sample of breast tissue to check for cancer cells.

A diagnostic biopsy can’t tell if you have cancer. But it can tell if the cancer cells have spread beyond the breast.

Trying to remove all the cancer cells in the tissue sample can cause more damage to the tissue than just having a diagnostic biopsy.

A diagnostic biopsy is only recommended if you have significant symptoms of breast cancer or if you have dense breast tissue.

Your doctor will only recommend a diagnostic biopsy if you can’t find any cancer cells in the tissue sample.

How will I know if I have cancer on a diagnostic mammogram?

If you’re at high risk for breast cancer, your doctor will order a diagnostic mammogram.

If your doctor doesn’t order a diagnostic mammogram, you may be able to get a mammogram without a shadow.

A diagnostic mammogram can’t tell if you have cancer, but your doctor can make a diagnosis based on your cancer history and the results of other tests.

Your doctor will review your medical history to see if you have any other cancer risk factors. These can include:

  • A family history of breast cancer
  • A family history of ovarian cancer
  • A personal history of breast cancer

Your doctor will perform a physical exam to check for any abnormalities.

Your doctor will also examine your breasts. They will feel for any lumps or areas that feel hard and tender.

They will also listen to your breasts for any abnormal sounds.

If your doctor finds any areas that feel hard or tender, they may order a diagnostic mammogram.

Your doctor may also order other lab tests to check for:

  • A hormone problem
  • A blood clotting problem
  • An infection that may be causing the lump

How long does it take to get a mammogram?

You may be able to get a diagnostic mammogram in just a few minutes.

If you’ve never had a mammogram before, you may need to wait for it to be done by a technologist.

Your doctor may want to wait until the technologist is done with another mammogram.

If your doctor orders a diagnostic mammogram, you may need to wait in the exam room for a few minutes.

A technologist may need to repeat some parts of the examination.

The technologist may also need to do other tests that may be more extensive than just a diagnostic mammogram.

What happens during a diagnostic mammogram?

A diagnostic mammogram is a painless procedure.

A technologist will start the mammogram process and will take images until the entire breast is clear.

The technologist will repeat this process for each breast.

Your doctor may need to repeat the mammogram a few times to get a clear image.

Your doctor may also want to take a few more images to check for any areas that were not clear on the initial mammogram.

What are the risks of a diagnostic mammogram?

A diagnostic mammography is very safe.

There’s a very small risk that the mammogram will not find a mass or cause any discomfort.

There’s a very small risk that you may have to have a diagnostic biopsy.

There’s a very small risk that the tissue sample will not be clear enough for a diagnosis.

Any risks from the diagnostic mammogram are very small. The risk of having a diagnostic biopsy is very small.

What is a diagnostic biopsy?

A diagnostic biopsy is a procedure that removes a sample of breast tissue.

A biopsy is done in a doctor’s office. A local anesthetic is used to numb the area.

There may be some pain or discomfort during the procedure. You may need to take an over-the-counter pain medicine if your pain is severe.

The tissue sample is sent to a lab for testing.

The results of the biopsy will tell your doctor if you have cancer.

The tissue sample may also be sent to a lab for testing to look for signs of other health problems, such as infection, blood clotting problems, or hormone problems.

How do I know I need a diagnostic biopsy?

You may need a diagnostic biopsy if you:

  • Have a family history of breast cancer
  • Have a family history of ovarian cancer
  • Have a personal history of breast cancer
  • Have dense breast tissue that’s making it hard to find cancer

During your doctor’s appointment, you may be asked about your medical history. You may also be asked about your family history of cancer.

The doctor will look at your breasts to check for any lumps or hard areas that feel tender.

They may also listen to your breasts for any abnormal sounds.

How do I prepare for a diagnostic mammography?

If you’re having a diagnostic mammography, you may need to prepare for the procedure.

You may be asked to remove your clothing and jewelry before the exam.

You may also need to take off your makeup and leave your hair down.

Bottom line

A diagnostic mammography is a very safe and painless procedure. You may need to wait for a diagnostic mammography if you’ve never had a mammogram before.

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