Frequency of Mammograms After Breast Cancer

Lawrence J. Solin, MD, FACR
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

Question:

Hi, I am 39 and had breast cancer two years ago. Cancer is high on both sides of my family. I found a lump in my other breast nine months ago. Mammogram was done at that time and showed no cancer. How often do I need to have a mammogram?

Answer:

Lawrence J. Solin, MD, FACR, Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

There are a small percentage of patients, especially younger patients that develop breast cancer detected by physical examination alone with negative mammogram findings. If a patient has a suspicious mass on physical examination that warrants a biopsy, then a negative mammogram should not stop such a biopsy. Other imaging studies, such as ultrasound or MRI, might be useful to clarify the situation, especially for the younger patient.

If you remain concerned, then you should seek medical attention with a physician (or physicians) experienced in breast diseases. Some possibilities include a surgeon (with an interest in breast diseases), and many university-affiliated hospitals have breast centers. Another possibility includes National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers. You might call 1-800-4-CANCER to ask about the center nearest your home.

In the absence of clinical symptoms, yearly mammograms are the generally accepted standard after breast cancer treatment.

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by Carolyn Vachani, MSN, RN, AOCN
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