How common is a second mammogram?
February 12, 2021 8:23 AM   Subscribe

My very good friend got a mammogram and the clinic contacted her and asked her to schedule a second mammogram and an ultrasound. Is this common for people with fibrous breast tissue? Those are the exact terms used and the only information she has. I know you’re not her doctor.

She is young 40s and this is her second mammogram. Obviously she scheduled the requested scans. If she had a tumor wouldn’t they ask for a biopsy? Or schedule the scans sooner? Two possible factors are she has fibrous breast tissue and had her period at the time of the first scan. No family history of breast cancer that she knows of. This is a stressful situation, but I am trying to help her stay calm. I’m worried for her because she’s going through a hard time personally for lots of unrelated reasons and if there’s any way I can help her, I’d like to.
posted by areaperson to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I was called back for a second one after my very first one. I had fibrous breast tissue and no prior scan to compare things to, so they just wanted to make sure about what they were looking at.
posted by PussKillian at 8:25 AM on February 12, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: It's very normal. I've had it happen more than once, and I finally switched to a clinic where they read your mammogram immediately and then do the second one and/or ultrasound right away, so you don't spend days wondering why they need another one. In my case, the second mammogram and/or ultrasound has always shown that everything was fine.
posted by FencingGal at 8:33 AM on February 12, 2021 [14 favorites]

Best answer: Yes, this is very, very common for people with fibrous breasts. The mammograms are a great baseline and the ultrasound is even better. I've had to have repeats almost every time I have a mammogram.
posted by cooker girl at 8:34 AM on February 12, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Having fibrocystic breasts doesn't increase your risk of breast cancer.

I was given a mammogram and told I had fibrous breast tissue, and the examiners seemed like they were struggling to do their job. I didn't have to go back, but I did have to come back from the waiting room so they could check again just to be sure.
posted by aniola at 8:38 AM on February 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This happens to me every time I have a screening mammogram. They do this regularly for anyone with fibrous/dense breast tissue.

Nothing major has ever shown up, just some calcifications and benign lumps that are unlikely to become anything. It's very common.
posted by Fuego at 8:40 AM on February 12, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Yes, common. Though FYI I was charged for the ultrasound even though imo this should have been part of the preventative yearly mammogram that was covered by insurance. I went back and forth with the hospital and insurance for ages and ended up having to pay about $700.
posted by Glinn at 8:42 AM on February 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Yup, very common. My doctor says I have dense tissue, which I throw back in her face when she tells me I should lose weight.
posted by Melismata at 8:45 AM on February 12, 2021 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Ever since my first mammogram showed fibrous/dense breasts, I have a 3D mammogram every year instead of the regular one. Hopefully, that's an option for your friend.
posted by poppunkcat at 8:46 AM on February 12, 2021 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you metafilter!!!! I was hoping (and I’m sure she is!) that based on the sort of casual way she said it was requested that this is common for her breast type. It is really helpful to hear personal anecdotes.
posted by areaperson at 8:47 AM on February 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The first time I was called back in for a second mammogram, the request was similarly information-poor. I got to the office and waited and waited, with my anxiety growing. I finally asked one of the nurses or techs if while I was waiting, they could at least say anything about how often it's bad news. She said that of everyone called back in for a second mammogram, only about 1% even had to go on to the next step, which would be a biopsy. Then there was an additional % of people who did need a biopsy but then found out it was fine after that.

So, yes, it's common to be called back and most likely not a real problem. I wish they'd say so when they ask you back. Maybe they can't because they want to make sure you take it seriously enough to come back in, but sheesh, what a lot of mostly-needless anxiety it causes.
posted by daisyace at 9:32 AM on February 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: if mammogram is inconclusive or there is something of concern, next step is ultrasound, then MRI if indicated. I know this because both of my sisters are currently going through some point in this process (yay...). biopsy is generally the next step after the MRI.

all the women in my family have 'dense' breast tissue, which I assume is what fibrous means. that makes it more difficult to get information from the mammogram.

so far your friends situation is very standard, you can reassure her that the doctors are just being thorough so they can best ascertain that she is healthy. also, if they do find something it is in no way certain to be cancer, but they would need the biopsy to determine that.
posted by supermedusa at 9:43 AM on February 12, 2021

Best answer: Like everyone's saying, so common! I just went through a mammogram + called back for another mammogram & ultrasound + called back for an MRI. And it turned out to be nothing. Better safe than sorry! Or, to put it into the words of a dear friend who battled a late-diagnosed cancer, better to know than not know.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:15 AM on February 12, 2021

Best answer: Adding to the pile-on. My ob-gyn just orders the ultrasound with the mammo from the outset now, to save me from being called back in.
posted by gaspode at 10:41 AM on February 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Adding to the pile on. I got called back for a second scan after my first at 40. And I guess it was fine (?). I got called back at 41 and they did a second mammogram and ultrasound. Then they scheduled me for a biopsy. Turns out that I did have Stage I breast cancer. Got it removed, radiation and am currently on hormone blockers (Lupron) and Anastrazole. Went in at 43 and they did an ultrasound after the mammogram on my other breast. Turns out it was a weirdly positioned blood vessel. Next one was fine. Due to go in for my yearly one next month.

When I was diagnosed, they sent me to genetics because I was young and I had a grandmother who it in her 80s. Turns out everything was fine, there were no mutations* and it was just dumb luck.

It's better to find it early and treat it.

*Actually the geneticist told me to check back in a few years as they're learning more all the time. But it definitely wasn't BRCA.
posted by kathrynm at 10:54 AM on February 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: happened to me the first time i got a mammogram. There were a couple of odd spots on the 2d they couldn't identify and wanted an ultrasound. All was well. One thing that helped me not be as worried while waiting on the next appt was getting a copy of the report so i could see what they were checking out and do a little research myself. YMMV on whether that comforts her or not.
posted by domino at 12:00 PM on February 12, 2021

Best answer: Yes, this is also my experience. My doctor now has me go to a breast center where they read your films while you wait and then immediately do a second mammogram and ultrasound if needed—and because my breasts are so dense I ALWAYS need a second look. It’s totally normal. And—there are many things that can show up on a mammogram that are not cancer (raises hand). You’re a good friend to help her through this!
posted by bookmammal at 12:30 PM on February 12, 2021

Best answer: It's totally normal and still fucking terrifying. I did end up with a biopsy on a spot but it was benign, just dense and fibrous.
posted by kimberussell at 12:35 PM on February 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: So incredibly common. Like, practically a guaranteed thing even every few years when you have fibrous breasts.

The very first time I had a mammogram, not only did they come back with a request for an ultrasound and more mammography images, but after viewing those results they decided that I should schedule a biopsy. I had just had surgery for cervical cancer a year and a half before, so I was pretty freaked out. The biopsy was...not fun. But it determined that the little spot they saw was nothing to worry about, and part of the biopsy process is putting a teeeny tiny little marker in the tissue there for future reference.
posted by desuetude at 12:48 PM on February 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Nthing that this is almost standard operating procedure for someone with dense/fibrous breast tissue. I am nearly always called back for additional views and an ultrasound. I had a scare at the end of 2019 where I made the mistake of reading my mammogram report on my online chart at the beginning of a week-long work trip and it said I had several masses. I was in agony for a week, first waiting for the callback, and then waiting for the followup appointment. Turns out it was just cysts. A few years back I even had a biopsy.

It is very hard to not get freaked out when this happens but hopefully knowing that this is common and that her healthcare providers are being cautious will be comforting.
posted by Preserver at 2:41 PM on February 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Would she consider calling back and asking for more information? Even if this is very, very routine, she deserves to hear that ASAP.
posted by rglass at 7:42 PM on February 12, 2021

Your coming forward to find an answer that she can feel is trustworthy says a lot for you as a friend. The truth is that the second mammogram is just the ultrasound which shows more detail to the original exam. The scheduling may be further out because specialty clinics are often busier than PCPs. She is only getting more comprehensive exam to make sure the screen isnt misread. The second mammogram is very protocol
PS. This just happened to me so it is not unusual
posted by The_imp_inimpossible at 6:19 AM on February 14, 2021

It's also very common to have to come back for a biopsy, by the way, if you don't have much of a history for them to look at. So your friend shouldn't panic even if she has to do that. That's just life with dense breast tissue.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:02 AM on February 14, 2021

Echoing that this is super common. They usually ask you to come back at the other end of your cycle, so if you were ovulating at the time of the first mammogram, they'll have you come back when you're menstruating and vice versa. I have fibrous breast tissue and this has happened a few times.
posted by bedhead at 11:27 AM on February 16, 2021

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