What should I do if my breast cancer screening results are unfavorable?

If your breast cancer screening results are unfavorable, keep in mind that most abnormal mammograms are NOT cancer. But you will need additional imaging and maybe a biopsy to understand exactly what is happening in your breast tissue to cause the abnormal image.

There are many available options to pursue if unfavorable results are found after mammography or other screening activities. If a malignant tumor is found, and the breast cancer was one of several types (early onset, two separate breast cancers, male breast cancer, ovarian cancer or multi-generational), a doctor will consider whether there is an inherited mutation in the family. Although this is present in only five to 10 percent of individuals, the breast and ovarian cancer risk is as high as 87 percent and 44 percent, respectively, in the patient’s lifetime, depending on many factors.

Fortunately, there are many options for treatment and future preventive activity. Preventive mastectomy and removal of ovaries is the choice of many, but not all, women. This reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, but not to zero. This prevention, one form of risk management, was chosen by Angelina Jolie after she discovered she carries a mutated copy of the BRCA1 gene, with wide media coverage after the announcement. This is a personal decision, to be made with all facts in place and with information from a healthcare provider with extensive knowledge in this area. For those at a lesser risk, at the opposite end of the continuum, one would start with lifestyle changes and medication.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.