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Getting called back after a screening mammogram is fairly common, and it doesn’t mean you have breast cancer. In fact, fewer than 1 in 10 women called back for more tests are found to have cancer. Often, it just means more mammograms or other tests (such as an ultrasound) need to be done to get a closer look at an area of concern.
If you do need more tests, ask your doctor about how quickly these tests can be scheduled. This can vary based on a number of factors, such as how busy the testing centers are in your area.
Getting called back is more common after a first mammogram, or when there’s no previous mammogram to compare to the new mammogram. It's also more common in women who haven’t gone through menopause.
You could be called back after your mammogram because:
Sometimes when more mammograms are taken of an abnormal-looking area, or the area is compressed more, it no longer looks suspicious. In fact, most often the additional images show the finding isn't cancer.
You will most likely be given the results of your tests during the visit. You might be told one of the following:
You’ll also get a letter with a summary of the findings that will tell you if you need more tests and/or when you should schedule your next mammogram.
During a breast biopsy, small pieces of breast tissue are removed and checked for cancer under a microscope. Even if you need a biopsy, it doesn’t mean you have cancer. Most biopsy results are not cancer, but a biopsy is the only way to find out.
There are different types of breast biopsies, some of which are done using a small, hollow needle and some that are done through a cut in the skin. The type you have depends on things like how suspicious the area looks, how big it is, where it is in the breast, other medical problems you might have, and your personal preferences.
Waiting for appointments and the results of tests can be frightening, especially if you were told the results of your first mammogram weren’t normal. You might have strong emotions, such as disbelief, anxiety, fear, anger, or sadness during this time. Here are some things to remember:
If you do have breast cancer and you’re referred to a breast specialist, use these tips to make your appointment as useful as possible:
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
Helvie MA, Patterson SK. Chapter 11: Imaging Analysis: Mammography. In: Harris JR, Lippman ME, Morrow M, Osborne CK, eds. Diseases of the Breast. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2014.
Last Revised: May 17, 2022