If you need further tests after breast screening

Some women are asked to go to a breast assessment clinic for further tests after breast screening. The clinic staff will explain why you have been invited back and which tests you need.

You may feel worried, but remember that most women who are asked to go to an assessment clinic won’t have breast cancer.

You may have some of these tests:

  • clinical examination – your breasts and lymph nodes are examined by a doctor or nurse
  • mammogram – an x-ray of your breasts
  • breast ultrasound – this uses sound waves to build up a picture of your breasts
  • breast biopsy – a small piece of tissue or cells (biopsy) is taken from any abnormal areas and sent to a laboratory for examination

You may get your results straight away or you may have to come back for them. If you are feeling anxious, you can speak to one of our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00.

At the clinic

If you need to have more tests, you will be asked to attend a breast assessment clinic. The clinic staff will explain why you have been invited back and which tests you need. You might be able to have the tests and results on the same day. But sometimes you may have to come back for further tests or for your results.

At the breast assessment clinic

At the clinic, you will see a specialist doctor and a specialist nurse or radiographer. They usually ask you if you have had any breast problems or if anyone in your family has had breast cancer.

The doctor or nurse will examine your breasts and the lymph nodes under your arm and around your neck. Some of the tests you might have include:

Mammogram

You may have more mammograms that focus on one area of your breast. These can be taken from different angles or by using magnification to make the image of the area bigger.

Breast ultrasound

An ultrasound uses sound waves to build up a picture of the breast tissue. It can show whether an abnormal area is solid (made of cells) or is a fluid-filled lump (cyst).

During the appointment, you will be asked to take off your top and bra, and lie down on a couch with your arm above your head. The person doing the scan puts a gel on your breast and moves a small hand-held device around the area. A picture of the inside of the breast will show up on a screen. They may also do an ultrasound of the lymph nodes in your armpit.

An ultrasound only takes a few minutes and is painless.

Breast biopsy

This is when the doctor takes a small piece of tissue or some cells (a biopsy) from any abnormal areas. A pathologist will examine the tissue or cells under a microscope to look for cancer cells. A pathologist is a doctor who specialises in analysing cells.

For a few days after, your breast may feel sore and bruised. Taking painkillers will help with this. Any bruising will go away in a couple of weeks.

There are different ways of taking a biopsy. Your doctor or nurse will explain the type of biopsy you will have.

Needle (core) biopsy

This is the most common type of biopsy. Before taking the biopsy, the doctor or radiographer will inject some local anaesthetic into the area to numb it. They will then use a needle to take a small piece of tissue from the abnormal area. You may feel some pressure for a short time during the biopsy.

Vacuum-assisted biopsy (VAB)

The doctor or radiographer will give you an injection of local anaesthetic into the skin to numb the area. They then make a small cut and insert a needle through it into the breast.

A mammogram or ultrasound picture helps them guide the needle to the correct area. The doctor uses a vacuum method to gently withdraw a piece of tissue into a small collecting chamber.

They can take several biopsies without needing to remove the needle and put it in again.

Fine needle aspiration (FNA)

This is a quick, simple test. The doctor, nurse or radiographer puts a very fine needle into the area and withdraws a sample of cells into a syringe. This test is often used to take a sample of cells from lymph nodes in your armpit.


Other tests

You may need to have some other tests which are not done at the assessment clinic. If you need any of the following tests, you will be given an appointment to go to the hospital.


Excision biopsy

The doctor makes a cut in the skin of the breast and removes the abnormal area. This is done under a general or local anaesthetic. You may need to stay in hospital overnight if you have had a general anaesthetic. Usually, you have stitches that dissolve and do not need to be removed.

Wire localisation biopsy

An x-ray or ultrasound is used to help the doctor guide a fine wire into the breast. This marks exactly where the surgeon should take the biopsy. The surgeon removes the wire when the excision biopsy is taken.


Waiting for tests results

Waiting for test results can be a difficult time. You may find it helpful to talk to your partner, family or a close friend. Sometimes, talking to someone outside your family or group of friends can help. One of the organisations on our database can provide support. You can also talk to one of our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00.

Back to Breast screening

The breasts

Breasts are made of fat, supportive (connective tissue) and glandular tissue that contains lobes (milk glands).

Being breast aware

Knowing what your breasts normally feel and look like can help you to notice any changes early.