When You Are Recalled for Assessment (further tests) – English version

When You Are Recalled for Assessment (further tests) – English version

HE Code: 
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Pamphlet DLE
Publication date: 
31 December 1998
Revision date: 
31 December 2005
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BreastScreen Aotearoa is a free national breast screening programme that checks women for early breast cancer. Information in English for women recalled for further tests or assessment following a mammogram. Describes what will happen at the assessment, including ultrasound scan, breast examination by a doctor, and the possibility of a biopsy. For Breastscreen Aotearoa Centres only.

You have been asked to return to BreastScreen Aotearoa for further tests or assessment because something on your mammogram needs further checking.

Most women who are recalled for assessment do not have breast cancer.

Like many other health checks, mammograms are not 100 percent accurate and sometimes they are not easy to read. During your assessment BreastScreen staff will check out anything on your mammogram that is unclear or that needs further investigation. Most of the time, women are reassured that all is well. But if a breast cancer is found, treating it when it is small gives women a better chance of successful treatment.

If you feel anxious you may find it helpful to talk over your feelings with someone close to you. This may be your husband, partner, whanau, a friend or the breast nurse at the BreastScreen Assessment Centre. By now your doctor will have your results (unless you have asked the programme not to send them to your doctor). You may wish to talk over your results with your doctor. However, visits to the doctor are not funded as part of the free screening programme.

What happens at assessment?

During your assessment, the BreastScreen staff will discuss with you the type of test that is best for you. It could be one or more of the following, in any order:

  • Another mammogram: Sometimes another mammogram is taken to try to gain more information on the area that needs checking.
  • Ultrasound scan: This is a test using sound waves to produce an image of the inside of the breast. Ultrasound can be used to give more information about the area that needs checking, especially distinguishing between cysts and anything else unusual. Not all conditions can be detected by ultrasound.
  • Clinical breast examination by a doctor: This may be done to check for any signs of cancer or other conditions that could cause the unusual image on the mammogram.
  • Biopsy: A biopsy involves removing a piece of tissue or some cells from the area in the breast that needs checking. The tissue or cells are examined under a microscope to see whether cancer is present. There are several types of biopsy and some women need to have more than one type.
    • Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy (FNA): In this process a fine needle is used to remove some cells from the area that needs checking. These cells are then examined under a microscope to see if cancer is present. This is done under local anaesthetic.
    • Core Biopsy: Under local anaesthetic, a slightly larger needle is used to remove a small core of tissue. This tissue is also examined under a microscope.

These two types of biopsy can usually be done on the day of the assessment but results will not be available immediately.

  • Surgical Biopsy: A small number of women will need to return on another day to have a surgical biopsy. This is done under general anaesthetic. The surgeon removes part, or all, of the tissue that needs checking and has it examined for cancer. Sometimes, if the area that needs checking cannot be felt, a thin wire or carbon marker is guided into the area (under local anaesthetic) before the operation. Then the surgeon removes the area of tissue around the marker. This is done under either local or general anaesthetic.

How long will the assessment take?

For some women it may only be an hour, for others it may be half a day or longer. If you have children, work or other commitments you may need to plan to be away for a whole day. If you live a long distance from the assessment centre you may need to stay overnight.


Most women will receive their results on the day of assessment, or they will be told when to expect them. Assessment results will also be sent to your doctor if you have given your permission for this to happen. If your assessment shows you have breast cancer, the BreastScreen Aotearoa staff will support you in choosing a specialist who will provide treatment.

How should I prepare for assessment?

  • You are welcome to bring a support person with you, for example, your husband, partner, friend, relative, or whanau members.
  • On the day you come for assessment avoid using talcum powder, creams or deodorants as these products make the X-rays difficult to read, and you may need another mammogram.
  • Wear a blouse or jersey with skirt or trousers as you will need to undress from the waist up.
  • You may have questions you want to ask. You may find it useful to write these down and bring them with you to the assessment clinic.

BreastScreen Aotearoa staff will do their best to make this day as comfortable for you as possible. Please let us know if we can help in any way.

Your rights

As with all health services, your rights are protected by the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights. The programme also has a legal obligation under the Health Information Privacy Code. You will receive more detail about the privacy of your information when you attend the assessment centre.

Remember: Most women who return for assessment will not have cancer. For those few who do, finding and treating breast cancer early means a very good chance of successful treatment.

If you need further information or would like to talk to someone about your assessment, contact your nearest BreastScreen Aotearoa centre (look in the phone book). Or Freephone 0800 270 200 or visit www.breastscreen.govt.nz