Getting a recall after a mammogram

One of our mammographers, Charlotte, takes you through what happens after getting a recall from a mammogram.

You’ve had your screening mammogram and it’s all done and dusted… then the results letter arrives, the one that doesn’t look the same as the others before or it’s a different colour than your friends got – your friends told you it will be pink and it’s green! When you read it, you realise:Breast P

Oh my god, I’ve been recalled – What now?

Try not to panic! (Easier said than done I know) The letter you have been sent is for an appointment at an Assessment clinic which runs every week at the main Breast unit you were screened under, so you won’t be the only one recalled.

What’s an assessment/mammogram clinic?

It is a clinic that brings back women who have recently had their routine screening mammogram for further investigations. Understandably this can be very daunting and the worry is that something horrible has been found!

The reality is that women get recalled every week to a clinic like this and the outcome is not always the worst, a recall doesn’t automatically mean you’ve got “it”. There are many different reasons for a mammogram recall, and if it’s your first mammogram sometimes we just don’t know what is “normal” for you so we need to have another look.

Image showing breast screening statistics

UK Breast Screening Statistics. Attribution to https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/breast-screening-helping-women-decide

What happens at Clinic?

When you arrive at clinic the first person you will usually see after you have checked in will be a Radiographer who is part of the same team who performed your original mammogram. They will usually do some more X-rays and explain how everything will run at the clinic, where you will wait, and who you will see.

But why have you been called back?

The radiographers can’t give you the answer yet, but they can explain what sort of x-ray they are taking, and which side is under question, left or right.An ultrasound examination

Next the Consultant in clinic will have a look at those further mammogram views and call you through for an Ultrasound scan. The consultant, or another of the team, will also clinically examine the breast to see if anything can be felt.

Then the consultant will explain to you why they brought you back, what they now think and what is next, if anything! So you will find out on the day the results of your further imaging, however if you require some needle test this takes a week for the results to come back and an appointment will be made for you to come back the following week.

Image of lots of clocks

Time…

I know! A week! That is a long time to wait especially when you’re petrified of the results, but the tests need to be sent to the lab to find out if the cells are normal or not before a result can be decided. If you do have any needle tests though you will see a breast care nurse who can try to answer any questions you may have and explain anything you may be unsure of.

Have you ever been recalled? What was your experience like? Was enough information given? Has being recalled affected your next screening experience?

Let us know, comment below or ask here.

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7 thoughts on “Getting a recall after a mammogram

  • I had the recall letter and thanks to the accompanying leaflet I knew the numbers above and did not panic. The team were really excellent explaining why and about the further tests and examinations. I was recalled for a biopsy as there was a very tiny area of concern. It was so small it could only be seen with magnification. Nothing was found on the first biopsy so I had to return for a different type of biopsy to be absolutely sure. Eventually the results came back as DCIS – a very early pre-cancerous change. I had a small operation to remove the area followed by three weeks of daily radiotherapy. I had only a short time off work and the radiotherapy appointments were arranged around my working day. So 18 months later I am fine. It took a while to fully take in what happened and I had some fatigue. But although it is unknown how many people with DCIS will progress on to other stages of cancer, I might not have ended up getting it, I am still young with children, husband and career. I did not want to run the risk and consider mammography to have saved my life.

  • Thanks for taking the time to comment on the blog, Sally. Your story really is important for letting other women know what happens in reality. We can explain it from our ‘health professional’ perspective but this can often appear a little formal or corporate; stating what we’d intend to happen. We don’t have the lived experience you have had so it’s great to know that what we intend to happen is actually reflected in patient experiences. Best of luck with your follow up screens. x

  • Thank you Sally for informing us of your experience. More research is being undertaken to establish how/when & if DCIS could progress on to Malignant stage & i we do hope in the future this could open more informed and tailored treatment options for Clients & Patients. All the best xx

  • As mammographer, It is what we do! So often women ask if we get bored doing ”this”all day..well we do not as we could save a life. Thank you for sharing your positive story. We hope it helps others too.

  • The NHS Breast Screening Programme routinely invites women aged 50-70 years for screening every three years. I live in an area where the breast screening unit and my GP are involved in the age extension study. So, this week, out of random, no symptoms, I decided that I would have my first mammogram as part of this study. My very first mammogram, didn’t hurt at all – which surprised me, as you hear so many stories about it hurting. I was recalled (the next day) for a possible cyst (you can’t stop worrying incase it isn’t). The next day, I had a digital tomosynthesis (3D imaging), followed by a clinical breast exam and an ultrasound. The ultrasound confirmed a ‘simple cyst’, which I had drained (without local anaesthetic, it was not painful at al). I am glad I took part in the age extension trial at age 47. Everything was explained really well and the service and whole experience was positive. I would encourage women to take part in the age extension trial (47-50). I would have otherwise had to wait until age 50 for an invite. You don’t have to have symptoms to take action.

  • That’s good to hear that you had a positive experience even though you expected the #mammogram to be like the stories you heard. Thank you for sharing a much more common story that doesn’t get told enought. Most #women do describe it as tight. .but not as bad as the stories!
    Being a ” well woman ” is the time to be part of #breastscreening.
    Any #woman or #man should feel that it’s OK to get breast concerns checked out.

  • Thanks for sharing your experience, Yasmeen. You have experienced breast screening in an efficient and positive way, and that is so good to hear.
    I agree with Julie, being a ‘well woman’, and taking part in health screening should be more of a priority for most women; and by spreading positive messages and experiences like yours can help keep more women well.
    Thank you, Yasmeen

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