Diagnostic Mammograms

A diagnostic mammogram is normally performed when a woman has new developing changes in her breast or if a change is detected on a screening mammogram.  

Getting called back after a mammogram:

Sometimes when more X-rays are taken of the area in question or the area is compressed more completely, the questionable region no longer looks suspicious. Most repeat mammograms do not find cancer.

It’s common to be called back after a screening mammogram and doesn’t automatically mean you have breast cancer. More often, it just means more X-rays or ultrasounds need to be done in order to get a closer look at a potential area of concern. Getting called back is more common after a first mammogram or when there’s no previous mammogram to compare the new mammogram to. It's also more common in women who haven’t gone through menopause.

You could be called back after your mammogram because:

  • The pictures weren’t clear (or didn't show some of your breast tissue) and need to be retaken.
  • You have dense breast tissue, which can make it hard to see portions of your breasts.
  • The radiologist sees calcifications or a mass (cyst or solid tumor).
  • The radiologist sees an area that just looks different from other parts of the breast.

What to expect at the follow-up appointment:

Usually, more pictures are taken during a diagnostic mammogram with a focus on the area(s) that looked different on the screening mammogram. During a diagnostic mammogram, the images are checked by the radiologist before you leave so that more pictures can be taken if needed and you don’t have to schedule an additional, separate appointment for the same instance.

In some cases, special images known as “spot views” or “magnification views” are used to make a small area of concern easier to see.

You can expect to learn the results of your tests during the visit. You are likely to be told one of the following:

  • The suspicious area turned out to be nothing to worry about and you can return to your normal mammogram schedule.
  • The area is probably nothing to worry about, but you should have your next mammogram sooner than normal—usually in 6 months—to watch it closely and make sure it's not continuing to change over time.
  • The changed area could be cancer, so a biopsy maybe recommended.