Your Mammogram Is Abnormal – What Now?

Barbara C. Phillips

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It’s 10am on a Tuesday morning. You are getting ready for a meeting with your team when a phone call comes in for you…from your health care provider. It seems your routine annual mammogram has found a small spot that needs further evaluation. Now what?

No doubt about it, an abnormal mammogram is a scary thing. The first thing you should remember is that 80 percent of these lumps turn out to be benign, meaning they are not cancerous. However, it’s prudent for your health care provider to arrange for you to have a biopsy done to insure that your spot does indeed fall into that 80%.

What’s a biopsy? A biopsy is a procedure that allows for tissue to be removed and tested for cancer. In many cases, the produced for taking tissue results in little to no pain and there is minimal to no scarring involved.

There are for main types of breast biopsies that are done.

Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy (FNAB) – This is the least invasive form of biopsy. The FNAB uses a tiny needle that is inserted directly into the lump. The content of the lump is then pulled back into the needle and syringe and the whole thing is withdrawn. In many cases, done properly, these procedures are painless, leave no scarring, and can be done in your providers office. Best of all, results can be ready in a few days.

Core Needle Biopsy (CNB) - The needle involved is a bit larger, with a bit of discomfort. The needle is again guided into the lump and the sample is obtained just like the FNAB. Again, the results are available in just a few days – often in 48 hours.

Image-Guided Breast Biopsy - In this type of biopsy, instead of guiding the needle by “feel" (feeling the lump to guide the needle), the needle is guided into the lump using ultrasound. This is often called a Stereotatic needle biopsy. In this case, the procedure is often performed by a radiologist or surgeon where equipment is available.

Surgical Biopsy – While often not used just to diagnosis breast cancer alone, they are performed when the decision is made by you and your surgeon to remove either part (incisional biopsy) or the entire (excisional biopsy) lump. This can be performed on an out-patient basis.

Undergoing any type of procedure on our breasts can be scary, especially when we are faced wit possibly receive a diagnosis of breast cancer. However, having an understanding of what is going on, what to expect, and why something is being done can alleviate some of that fear and help you become an active partner in your quest for further information.

As an expert on healthy and successful aging for women, Barbara C. Phillips, NP is the founder of and . You are invited to visit OlderWiserWomen and receive your free copy of “Celebrating You: 50 Tips for Vibrant Living" when you sign up for our free membership. For further information on Cancer, please visit


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