Wondering how quickly you can see your mammogram results? With PocketHealth, your health records are at your fingertips.
A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray that assesses your breast tissue for abnormalities, providing your healthcare provider with an overview of your breast health. Mammograms are a very effective screening tool for detecting the earliest signs of cancer, leading to better health outcomes. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force draft recommends all women begin regular mammogram screenings every other year starting at age 40.
If you’ve had a mammogram, you may want access to your images and report. This article breaks down what you can expect when it comes to accessing your mammogram results, including:
- How long it takes to get your mammogram results
- The benefits of having access to your mammogram images and reports
- How to understand your mammogram report
- Who might have access to your mammograms
Having access to your mammogram images and records is key to taking control of your own health journey. It’s also the law. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) in the U.S. and the Privacy Act in Canada, including Ontario’s Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) at the provincial level, every patient has the right to access their own health records.
PocketHealth makes that access easy and allows you to securely share, store and understand your mammogram images and report in one place. Access your records today.
How long does it take to get a mammogram report back?
The hospital imaging department or clinic will typically send your mammogram results within 10 days. Several factors might speed up or slow down the process:
- The urgency of your particular situation. In some pressing cases, mammogram results might be expedited and delivered more quickly.
- The complexity of the scan. The more complex the scan, the more time it could take for the radiologist to review.
- The need for more information. Your results might require follow-up imaging in order to deliver a complete and accurate diagnosis.
- The need to review against previous scans. When it comes to breast cancer screening, checking results against past scans is especially important.
- The mode of transmission. How the imaging clinic sends the results to your referring physician also affects how long it takes to get your results. Diagnostic-quality images are sometimes sent by CD, while reports might be faxed.
Some patient portals will include mammogram images along with the report, but not all portals have that capability. And even if they do, the images are rarely of diagnostic quality, which is important when it comes to understanding your results, comparing results over time and sharing your exam results with healthcare providers
5 benefits of having access to your mammogram results online
According to a 2023 PocketHealth survey, 51% of Canadians report feeling anxious or stressed while waiting for medical imaging or results. Having secure access to your mammogram results as soon as they become available can help reduce that ‘scanxiety’. Here are 5 ways PocketHealth helps make you the driver, not the passenger, in your healthcare journey:
- You get faster, easier access. With PocketHealth, you can see your images and report as soon as they’re released by the radiologist, often before your follow-up appointment.
- You can share results. Comparing results over time is especially important for breast cancer screening. If you need a second opinion or just want to keep your entire health team up to date, you can share diagnostic-quality images from your account—even if the receiving practitioner isn’t on PocketHealth yet.
- You can ask more informed questions. A mammogram report is full of complex medical terms. PocketHealth Report Reader provides definitions for medical terminology to help you understand exactly what your report says.
- You’ll never miss a follow-up. A 2021 study reported that 60% of recommendations for additional imaging are never followed up on. PocketHealth Follow-Up Navigator lets you know if there are any follow-up recommendations in your mammogram report, which is particularly crucial for breast cancer screening
- You own your records. PocketHealth secures your medical images and reports with bank-level encryption technology. Secure centralized storage means you don’t have to send written requests for records, which can take up to two months and might even cost a fee.
How to understand your mammogram results
Your mammogram results include both images and a report prepared by the radiologist. In the images, your breast tissue shows up in shades of gray against a dark background. The denser the tissue, the lighter it appears in the image. Calcium deposits and glands show up as white, as do benign fibroadenomas and tumors. Having a tumor does not automatically mean you have cancer.
Mammograms also assess breast density. Dense breasts have more fibrous and glandular tissue than fatty tissue. Having dense breasts is normal and common, especially in younger women, but they can add complexity to mammograms as both dense tissue and cancer look white in mammogram images.
There are 4 categories of breast density:
- Category A less than 25% dense tissue
- Category B 25-50% dense tissue in areas scattered throughout the breast
- Category C 50-75% heterogeneously concentrated dense tissue
- Category D 75%+ dense tissue
In addition, medical professionals use a standard scale to discuss mammogram results, called Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System (BI-RADS). The system is split into the following 6 categories:
- Category 0: Your scan was incomplete or unclear. You’ll require further testing, which might include another mammogram for comparative purposes.
- Category 1: A normal test result. This is considered ‘negative’ since nothing abnormal or new was detected.
- Category 2: Also negative, this result includes some sort of non-cancerous finding like a benign calcification.
- Category 3: This scan is potentially benign but it reveals a finding which suggests a follow-up image be taken, generally within a year.
- Category 4: A suspicious finding but not confirmed to be cancer. A biopsy is often recommended in this case.
- Category 5: The findings in this category generally suggest cancer. A biopsy is strongly recommended.
- Category 6: This category is only used for findings in images taken after cancer has already been proven.
Who has access to your mammogram results?
Depending on your particular circumstances and needs, several parties may have access to your mammogram results, including:
- You. Thanks to PHIPA in Canada and HIPAA in the U.S., it is the law that patients can access their own medical records. You might access your mammogram results online through a client portal, or via a secure platform such as PocketHealth.
- Mammogram technologist. Your mammogram images will be taken by a highly-trained technologist, who then forwards the images to a radiologist.
- Radiologist. A radiologist reviews and interprets your images, and creates a report about the findings. You can view both the images and the reports with PocketHealth.
- Your referring physician (or primary care provider). The radiologist sends the images and report to the referring physician, who will review and discuss the results with you at a follow-up appointment.
- Parent/legal guardian. If the patient is under 18, a parent or legal guardian can access their medical records on their behalf in order to expedite treatment.
- Advocate/caregiver. With written consent from a patient, an advocate or caregiver can access a patient’s medical records.
- Insurance companies. If your mammogram requires insurance coverage, the insurance company is allowed to view the images and report.
- Care facilities. The doctors, nurses and staff at long-term care facilities need access to patients’ medical records in order to provide care.
- Rehabilitation centers. If you attend a rehabilitation center, the attending medical staff requires access to your medical records during your stay.
- Hospitals and labs. Hospitals and labs might need to review and compare medical records in order to make the most accurate diagnosis and provide the most appropriate treatment.
Stay on top of your breast health with regular mammogram screenings
Regular screening mammograms are a vital step to monitor breast health and are the most reliable way to detect the earliest signs of breast cancer. Early detection is key to effective treatment and improved health outcomes. Having access to your mammogram results helps you be a more confident, informed and proactive participant in your care.
With PocketHealth, you can access your mammogram results online, often as soon as the radiologist releases the images and report. Thanks to features like Report Reader and Follow-Up Navigator, you can easily understand complex terminology and see any follow-up recommendations, helping you have more informed follow-up conversations with your doctor about your breast health.
How PocketHealth works
Learn how PocketHealth can help you to securely access and share your mammogram records.