Mammography

(Breast X-ray; Mammogram; X-ray of Breast Tissue)

Definition

This exam uses low-dose x-rays to make a picture of breast tissue. The picture is called a mammogram. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that women aged 50-74 years old get a mammography every two years. Other organizations recommend screening every year starting at age 40. Women who are at high risk for breast cancer may need to have mammograms starting at an earlier age and more often. Most organizations in the United States and Canada recommend regular screening. There are some differences of opinion among these groups, such as when to start and how often to have the screenings. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.

Reasons for Test

This test is done to detect breast cancer. It may be done:
  • As a screening test—in women without symptoms
  • As a diagnostic test—to help make a diagnosis in women with symptoms like a lump or change in breast shape
  • To help determine size and location of a lump before a biopsy or surgery
Mammogram Showing the Growth of a Breast Mass
nucleus fact sheet image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. If you are planning to have a mammogram, your doctor will review potential problems with you.A mammogram does use radiation. You and your doctor will weigh the harms and benefits of this test. A mammogram may not be advised if you are pregnant. Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the test.

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