Senior Women: Know Your BIRADS Score

Jul 25th, 2011 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: For Senior Women

Some relatively new information is available regarding breast cancer and understanding this disease.  Women at high risk or over a designated age are encouraged to get annual mammograms, a specialized X-ray of the breast.  This special kind of test an detect breast cancer at a very early stage when the likelihood is that it can be successfully treated.

Like the Gleason score on the PSA for men, there is a BIRADS (Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System) assessment on the mammogram that helps doctors understand how concerned the radiologist is about the test.  The BIRADS score is a number identifying how likely the radiologist believes cancer might be present.  There are seven categories, and anything 3 or above requires followup.  It goes like this:

  • BIRADS 0 — Diagnosis: Incomplete, typically because more information is needed. Next steps: The mammogram or ultrasound didn’t give the radiologist enough information to make a clear diagnosis; follow-up imaging is necessary.
  • BIRADS 1 — Diagnosis: Negative (N). Next steps: There is nothing to comment on. Breasts are normal and routine screening is recommended.
  • BIRADS 2 — Diagnosis: Benign Finding-Negative (N). Next steps: A definite negative mammogram; radiologist may describe benign finding, such as a lymph node within the breast, breast implants or a fibroadenoma (solid lump comprised of benign cells); routine screening recommended.
  • BIRADS 3 — Diagnosis: Probably Benign Finding (P). Next steps: A finding is present that is most likely benign (>98%), but another evaluation should be made shortly. You’ll be asked to follow up with a repeat mammogram in six months. If you have a family or personal history of breast cancer, the radiologist may opt to do more tests now rather than wait.
  • BIRADS 4 — Diagnosis: Suspicious Abnormality (S). Next steps: Lesions are present that don’t have characteristics of breast cancer, but there is a reasonable probability of malignancy (20% to 35%); a biopsy should be considered.
  • BIRADS 5 — Diagnosis: Highly Suspicious of Malignancy (M). Next steps: Lesion has a high probability of being cancer (>= 95%).  Appropriate action should be taken. You will need to have a biopsy for diagnosis. Talk to your doctors about what course of action to take.
  • BIRADS 6 — Diagnosis: Known Biopsy-Proven Malignancy. Next steps:Biopsy-detected malignancy is present but additional information is necessary.  (John Hopkins Health Alert)

Knowing your BIRADS score helps keep you in the mainstream about your health care, and offers you opportunity for early treatment if breast cancer is found.



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