What Does your Doctor Look For in a Mammogram?

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What Does your Doctor Look For in a Mammogram?

Mammograms are read by radiologists.  Radiologists are doctors who are specifically trained in diagnosing and treating diseases and injuries by using imaging techniques such as x-rays. 

There are different types of signs your doctor will look for while looking at your mammogram:

Calcifications are mineral deposits that look like white spots on a mammogram. There are two types of calcifications:

  • Macrocalcifications- large, coarse calcium deposits usually caused by aging breast arteries, injuries, or inflammation.  Macrocalcifications are related to benign conditions and usually do not require a biopsy.  Such deposits are commonly found in women over 50 years old.
  • Microcalcifications- small calcium deposits in the breast.  Doctors are more suspicious of microcalcifications; however, that does not mean that they are always cancerous.  In some cases a biopsy is needed to determine if cancer is present.

A mass is a region in breast tissue that looks abnormal.  Masses can be caused by a number of things such as cysts or solid masses:

  • Simple Cysts- fluid-filled sacs are benign and do not need to be biopsied.  Sometimes an ultrasound or a needle aspiration is needed to determine if the mass is a simple cyst or a solid mass. 
  • Tumor- solid masses which cause more concern and are usually watched with regular mammograms, ultrasounds, or tested with biopsies. 

Breast Density- is based on how the different types of tissue in your breast are distributed.  Dense breasts are not always abnormal, but it may be linked to a higher risk of developing breast cancer.  Dense breasts can make it more difficult to see abnormal spots in mammograms, sometimes additional tests may be needed to determine if a woman is at risk for having or developing breast cancer.

Having a record of your previous mammograms is very important.  It can help your doctor see the changes your breast tissue has gone through.




American Cancer Society