Understanding your mammogram report

By Terri Bentler, BSN, RN, OCN, CN-BN Jul 18, 2017

You’ve done exactly as recommended. You scheduled your mammogram and have done your research on the process. You know what to expect during your mammogram, but what about after? What do the results of your mammogram really mean?

Setting the standard
It all starts with a radiologist who will interpret your mammogram. Does anything look abnormal? How severe is the abnormality? Radiologists will take this information and sum it up in one number, or score, to communicate their findings to doctors.

This standardized rating system is known as the Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System, or BI-RADS. This system is not only used for mammograms, but also breast ultrasounds or breast MRIs. This system standardizes breast imaging reports, which allows for consistent, accurate communication and follow-up after the tests much easier.

Making sense of it all
There are 6 categories for breast imaging:

  • 0: Your mammogram is still incomplete. The X-ray may have been cloudy, making it difficult to read the images, for example. Further information or imaging is needed to assign a true score.
  • 1: This means your mammogram is negative, or no signs of cancer were found. You should continue to have routine screenings.
  • 2: This also means your mammogram is normal with no apparent cancer, but that other benign findings such as cysts were found. You should continue routine screenings.
  • 3: This means your mammogram is probably normal and the findings are most likely benign. However, there is about a 2 percent chance of cancer. You will likely need a follow-up screening in six months.
  • 4: This means the findings are suspicious and a biopsy should be considered
  • 5: The findings are highly suggestive for malignancy, and a biopsy is strongly recommended for a proper diagnosis.
  • 6: This means you’ve already been diagnosed with breast cancer and the pathologist has confirmed the diagnosis.

Taking charge of your health
If you are registered to view your medical record electronically using Sanford’s MyChart, you may have seen these categories on your breast imaging report. Knowing your BI-RADS score can help to make sure you get proper follow-up after your mammogram.

Knowing your score also helps you keep track, along with your physician, of what you need to do and actively participate in your medical care. For more details about the BI-RADS score, visit the American Cancer Society website, https://www.cancer.org and search for “Understanding your Mammogram Report”.

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