When the mammogram is suspicious

OK, time for a teaching moment. My oldest friend Lynda had her annual mammogram this month, and on the Monday after she received a letter saying she needed to get back with them to explore something that was "probably benign." Do they know what that kind of letter does to a woman? If you have had breast cancer you know that a truly suspicious mammogram results in a PHONE CALL from your gynecologist, who is the person the center contacts when there is probable cause to believe it could be cancer. But women in the general population don't know that. They think any time they have a mammogram, breast cancer may be lurking. Lynda had some cysts removed nine years ago, and because she has gone through my experience, she was concerned and called on the mammogram center the day after she received the letter, Tuesday, and left a message for the nurse to get back with her. Nothing. Finally she called her gynecologist and left a message about the letter. Her doc called back immediately and told her that the mammography center had not called her, meaning it was probably nothing. But the gyn called the mammography center on Lynda's behalf and had the radiologist look at the film. He thought it was scar tissue, but Lynda needed to check it out. She asked them to call Lynda.So, with her doctor interceding, the mammography center finally called back and said that the first appointment they had was June 4, which will mean that, from the date of the letter, she will wait six weeks to get it checked out. Again. I know, and any of you who have had a suspicious mammogram know, that something that looks really suspicious results in an "all hands on deck" response. But, again, Lynda didn't know that. There has to be a better way to communicate with women who need follow-up that tells them that it's a "no rush" situation and that they need to scheduled an appointment, but, again, it's not urgent!There are ways to say, "you need to come back" as opposed to "you need to come back in immediately." When I was diagnosed in 1986, my gyn sent me for my first mammogram after a physical exam when I pointed out a lump in my right breast that had a deep painful itching. She said not to wait and I went the next day. She called me the next morning with the news that my mammogram was "highly suspicious." I asked her what that meant and she said I probably had breast cancer and I needed to talk with a surgeon. She gave me some names and said this was urgent. Lynda is now calm, but there is still that nagging that it might be something. And she won't find out for two more weeks.