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  • Writer's pictureDr Jesse Hu

Does An Abnormal Mammogram Mean Cancer?

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

No, having an abnormal mammogram does not mean that you have cancer.

First off, kudos to you for taking the first step in checking on your breast health. Breast cancer is the most common cancer amongst women in many parts of the world, including Singapore and mammogram is an effective screening tool for breast cancer. Although most women who go for screening will have a normal result, i.e. no cancer detected, a small percentage (1 in 10) will have an abnormal result. However, an abnormal screening mammogram just means that the lady will need further evaluation. In fact, most ladies (8 out of 10) with abnormal screening mammograms do not have cancer.

Let’s start with what is a mammogram?

an x-ray of a mammogram will aid in the detection and diagnosis of breast diseases

A mammogram is an x-ray image of your breasts. Like all x-ray images, mammograms appear in shades of black, gray and white, depending on the density of the tissue. Very dense tissue, like bone, shows up as white on an X-ray. Fat looks dark gray on an X-ray.

Breast cancer and some benign breast conditions are denser than fat and appear a lighter shade of gray or white on a mammogram.

So, what causes mammograms to be called abnormal?

There are many reasons an mammogram can be called abnormal and the lady is recalled for further evaluations after a screening mammogram.

The various reasons include:

  • Some common benign breast conditions, such as cysts and fibroadenomas, may show up on mammograms as round or oval patches with distinct borders. These changes are not concerning for cancer.

  • Calcifications are bits of calcium that can show up on mammograms as small, bright white spots. Most calcifications are benign (not cancer). However, certain patterns of calcifications are suspicious and need more testing. Tight clusters or lines of tiny calcifications (microcalcifications) can be a sign of breast cancer.

  • Architectural distortion describes a distorted shape or pattern of breast tissue on a mammogram. However, no mass is seen.

Hence, further investigations after consulting a breast surgeon will be necessary to rule out cancer.

The investigations required may include:

  • Mammogram add view: to zoom in & focus on the area of concern

  • Ultrasound breast: to evaluate if there is any mass

  • Biopsy of any area which needs tissue diagnosis

It’s best to see a breast surgeon who will advise you on your next course of action accordingly.

Book an appointment with us today to get your breasts checked!

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