Getting the results of further tests after breast screening

Further tests may not find a problem with your breast tissue even though the mammogram showed an abnormal area. This means that the first mammogram gave a false-positive result. You won’t need to have any other tests but will be invited back for screening again in three years.

False-positive results can sometimes be caused by tiny deposits of calcium in the milk ducts. These are usually harmless.

Some women will be told that they don’t have breast cancer, but they have a benign (non-cancerous) condition. If this happens to you, you may be referred to a breast specialist for monitoring or treatment.

Only around 8 in every 1,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer after breast screening. If your tests show that you have breast cancer, you will be referred to a breast surgeon. They will discuss possible treatments with you.

Some women are diagnosed with a condition called DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ). DCIS is the earliest from of breast cancer and is almost always cured with treatment.

No problem seen

This means the first mammogram showed an abnormal area in the breast, but further tests did not find a problem. The first mammogram result is called a false-positive result. You will not need to have any further tests or treatment. You will be invited back for a routine mammogram in three years (depending on your age).

Many false-positive results are caused by tiny deposits of calcium in the milk ducts. This is known as microcalcification. This happens in many women over the age of 50 and is usually harmless.

We have more information about breast calcification.


Benign condition (not cancer)

Some women will be told that they do not have cancer but have a benign (non-cancerous) condition. Many benign conditions of the breast can be seen on a mammogram. You may be referred to a breast specialist for advice, monitoring or treatment.


Breast cancer

Only about 8 in every 1,000 women who have breast screening will be diagnosed with breast cancer. If your tests show that you have cancer, you will be referred to a breast surgeon. Most breast cancers are invasive. This means the cancer cells have spread outside the lining of the ducts or lobes into surrounding breast tissue. However, 1 out of 5 (20%) of breast cancers found by screening are ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). DCIS is the earliest form of breast cancer. It is sometimes called non-invasive or localised cancer. This means there are cancer cells in the ducts of the breast but they are contained (in situ) and have not spread into the breast tissue.

Side view of the breast showing DCIS and invasive breast cancer
Side view of the breast showing DCIS and invasive breast cancer

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Your feelings after diagnosis

You may be feeling shocked, frightened or anxious about what is going to happen after a cancer diagnosis. Feeling like this is natural. You will be able to talk to a breast care nurse who can help support you.

We have information about the emotional effects of cancer which talks about some of the feelings you may have. It gives advice on how to deal with your emotions and how to get support.

Call our support line on 0808 808 00 00 to order information or to have a chat with one of our cancer support specialists.

Treatment

Your surgeon, cancer specialist doctor or nurse will discuss possible treatments with you. You may be offered a choice of treatments. It is important to look at the benefits and disadvantages of each one before deciding which is best for you.

Invasive breast cancer

Treatment for invasive breast cancer usually involves surgery to remove part of, or all of, the breast.

  • Wide local excision – Removing the abnormal area and an area (margin) of normal tissue surrounding it. This is followed by radiotherapy. This procedure is sometimes called breast-conserving treatment. More than two-thirds of cancers found during screening can be treated in this way.
  • Mastectomy – Removing the whole breast. Breast reconstruction to make a new breast shape can be done at the same time or later. Some women may need radiotherapy after a mastectomy.

You may also need other treatments such as chemotherapy, hormonal therapy or targeted therapy.

Our section on breast cancer has more information about its treatment and coping with cancer.

DCIS

Treatment can cure most women with DCIS. The surgeon removes all the DCIS with a wide local excision. Some women then need to have radiotherapy.

The surgeon will usually only advise removing the whole breast if the DCIS is large or affects more than one area of the breast.

If DCIS is left untreated, over time it may spread into (invade) the breast tissue surrounding the milk ducts, becoming an invasive breast cancer. But some areas of DCIS will never develop into invasive breast cancer, even if no treatment is given. Breast specialists advise treating DCIS because it is not currently possible to tell whether it will develop into invasive cancer or not.

Some screening centres are involved in a national trial (called the LORIS study) comparing surgery with monitoring low risk DCIS. If you have been diagnosed with DCIS, you may want to ask your breast cancer specialist about whether this trial might be suitable for you.

Our section on DCIS has more information about its treatment.

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.