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Ask The Expert: Screening Mammogram Shows an Abnormality - What's Next?

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Ask the Expert Mammogram Call Backs

After your screening mammogram, you may receive a call requesting that you come back for more detailed imaging. This does not necessarily mean you have cancer and it is important to go back as soon as possible. Dr. Margaret Van Meter, an Oncologist at Intermountain Medical Center, says additional mammogram images, and sometimes an ultrasound, will be done to further determine whether there is anything of concern on the mammogram or ultrasound that requires a biopsy.

If a biopsy is done, the doctor will let you know how and when you will be contacted with the results. Take care to provide a phone number at which you can be easily reached or where you will be able to receive a message.

If you are found to have a cancer, the first and most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. A team of experts, who are experienced in treating breast cancer, will be quickly assembled to treat your cancer. You will be assigned a navigator to help guide you through what can sometimes be a complex treatment plan.

Treatment for breast cancer is highly individualized, based on characteristics of the cancer as well as your general health and your goals and preferences. We will work with you to explain our recommendation, discuss your preferences, and together determine what treatment is most appropriate for you.

Team Care

During your clinic visits at Intermountain Healthcare, you'll have access to each of the following specialists:

• Surgeon – A surgeon removes cancer through surgical intervention. Most surgeons who do breast surgery are general surgeons, with specialization in breast surgery. Many patients will see a surgeon as the first specialist following a breast cancer diagnosis.

• Medical Oncologist – (Hematology/Oncology) Medical Oncologist are internists with training and experience in the treatment of cancer. They coordinate patient care from diagnosis through the course of the disease, assisting with pain and symptom management. When needed, they prescribe chemotherapy, hormone therapy and other anti-cancer drugs.

• Radiation Oncologist – Radiation Oncologists provide radiation therapy treatment such as image guided radiation therapy. They develop and prescribe cancer treatment plans and monitor patient progress.

• Genetics Counselor – Our counselor will review your family medical history and provide education regarding your personal risk for familial cancer.

• Lymphedema Therapist – Our therapists evaluate and provide education about swelling caused by lymph system disruption.

• Social Worker – Our social worker will assist with support and counseling, financial concerns, and help you gain access to community resources.

• Dietitian- Our certified dietitians provide education about nutrition during cancer treatment.

• Registered Nurse – The nurse will coordinate your care by helping make appointments, providing education and answering questions.

• American Cancer Society Patient Navigator – Our American Cancer Society patient navigator connects patients with information, resources, services, and support during the cancer journey.

Beware internet information. With so much information available online these days, it is very tempting to dive in to an internet search to learn more about your diagnosis. It’s difficult to know what information is correct and, even for information that is technically accurate, what information is appropriate to your situation.

We urge you to make your first point of contact your navigator and your medical team, so that your questions can be answered in a way that is most specific to your situation.

If you do feel compelled to do internet research, we can help provide additional reliable resources, such as those from the American Cancer Society or National Cancer Institute.

Write down the questions you have for your medical team and bring your list to your visits. Even in our information age, a binder is often helpful for organizing notes, calendars, reports, etc.

Bring a family member or trusted friend to doctors’ visits to help take notes, ask questions, and provide support.

There is hope! A recent study from the American Cancer Society reported that the number of women who die from breast cancer has fallen by almost 40% since 1989, due to a combination of early detection and improved treatments.

Treatment for breast cancer may include a combination of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and anti-hormonal pills. As above, every breast cancer and every patient is unique, and a personalized treatment plan will be recommended to you.

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