Mammograms are an essential aspect of women’s health and evaluation.  A low dose X-ray is used to examine breast tissue.

This tool both accomplishes the screening portion and diagnostic portion of an evaluation. Early detection of breast cancer is the goal and the product is often a reduction of mortality from the Breast Cancer.

Evaluation also includes self breast exams and examination by a medical provider to evaluate Breast Tissue.

10% of breast cancers may be missed on mammograms.

It is not a perfect screening or diagnostic tool.

Breast Screening Recommendations:

1.)  At or over age 40

2.)  Occurrence every 1-2 years

Breast Diagnostic Recommendations

1.)  An abnormal finding on self-breast exams or by a provider

2.)  Typically referred by a medical provider

3.)  Can be seen at any age


What to expect

1.)  X-ray is done – small amounts of radiation are involved

2.)  Breast will be compressed between a table-like portion and levered portion

3.)  You must remain still

4.)  Images are taken of the sides and the front

5.)  Do not wear deodorant, lotion or other powders [talcum]

6.)  A biopsy may be necessary at some point

7.)  A second mammogram is necessary for a small portion of patients

8.)  Usually around 10% are called back for further evaluation

9.)  Less than 10% of those called back will require a biopsy

10.)  Between 30 and 40% of those who get a biopsy will have breast cancer


False Positives

–  Occurs when a normal patient is called back because of an abnormal finding
–  Because Breast Cancer finding is the goal – This exam is designed to be over-sensitive
–  The absence of cancer is usually found at a later point

self breast exam

False Negatives

–  Occurs when a breast cancer patient is missed as a normal finding
–  Because exact diagnosis in everyone is difficult
–  Breast tissue and cancer tissue may appear similar or the cancer tissue may be missed entirely

Radiation exposure

–  An overall relatively low risk
–  The greater risk is for those below age 40

Controversy of Mammograms

–  Is a highly debated topic
–  Age of starting is always being debated at 40 or 50 is being debated
–  Overall improvement is debated
–  The frequency of mammograms is debated


–  Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA)
–  Inspection and Accreditation every 3 years


Other screening tools:

–  MRI
–  Ultrasound
–  Ductography
–  Positron emission mammography (PEM)
–  Biopsy

Other Related Topics:

Facts About Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The Mammogram Debate – What should you choose?