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Spot (Diagnostic) Mammography at UPMC

Spot (diagnostic) mammograms are done when there are problems such as lump, nipple discharge, change in skin color/texture, or change in size or shape of breast. This may also be done if you are asked to return after your first exam for additional evaluation

Try not to panic. It's pretty common to get called back for more tests after a screening mammogram.

It doesn't mean you have breast cancer. Fewer than one in 10 women called back for more tests end up having breast cancer. It could be what's called a false positive.

A suspicious finding may be just dense breast tissue, a cyst, or even a benign tumor. Other times, the image isn't clear, and a clearer image is needed.

Or, if this is your first mammogram, your doctor has no prior results to compare it to. They simply may want to look at an area more closely.

If your doctor has concerns about your screening mammogram results, they'll schedule another appointment – often within a few days. They'll want you to get new images or have other tests.

Waiting for the tests and the results can be emotionally and physically draining.

One thing you can do at this point is to learn about the process ahead and take charge of your health. That can make you feel better and more empowered.

Find and imaging location near you

What Are False Positives?

A false-positive mammogram looks abnormal even though no cancer is present. The more mammograms you have, the more likely you'll have a false positive result that needs follow-up tests.

Keep in mind:

  • The chance of having a false positive result after one mammogram ranges from 7 to 12 percent, depending on your age. It's more likely in younger women since most women under 50 have dense breasts.
  • Women who have past mammogram results to compare reduce their odds of a false-positive finding by about 50 percent.
  • After 10 yearly mammograms, the chance of having a false positive is about 50 to 60 percent.
  • False positives are also more common in women who've had breast biopsies, have breast cancer in the family, or are taking estrogen.
  • One way to help avoid a false-positive is to make sure your doctor has the results of any past mammograms. They can compare them with your new mammograms.
  • For instance, a mass or defect that hasn't changed for years may be benign and not need further tests.
  • What tests could I need at my follow-up diagnostic mammogram appointment?
  • Your doctor may do one or more tests to rule out breast cancer.

What Tests Will I Need at My Follow-Up Mammogram Appointment?

Your doctor will likely give you another mammogram called a diagnostic mammogram.

It's much like your screening mammogram, but they'll take more pictures of the area of concern.

Breast ultrasound

Ultrasound uses sound waves to create a computer image of your breast tissue.

It lets your doctor look more closely at the area of concern.

What Your Imaging Test Results Might Mean

Soon after — sometimes even during your visit — you'll get the results.

Your doctor will tell you one of three things:

  • It's nothing to worry about, and you can return to your regular mammogram schedule.
  • It's probably nothing to worry about, but you should have your next mammogram sooner as recommended. They'll often want you to have the test in 3 or 6 months to ensure it doesn't change over time.
  • A biopsy is needed to further evaluate your breast health.

You'll get the written results during your appointment.

You're Not Alone

The prospect of cancer and its treatment is scary. But there are many people ready to help you.

Once you find a breast cancer doctor and treatment center, you'll be the center of a team of:

  • Doctors and nurses.
  • Dietitians.
  • Social workers.
  • Support staff.

We'll work with you and your loved ones to provide the best possible cancer care.

There are also many outside resources to help you.

The American Cancer Society's treatment and survivorship site has a wide range of tools and resources for you, caregivers, and family members.

Breast cancer is a challenge, but you'll have a lot of help to beat it.

Schedule a Mammogram at UPMC