April 3, 2000 (Chantilly, Va.) -- Medical experts say there are several
reasons why a mammogram may fail to detect a cancerous tumor:
The technology. Mammograms involve squeezing a woman's breast between two
plates of glass -- a technique that is awkward at best. Old or badly maintained
equipment and poorly trained technicians can increase the odds of an inaccurate
The quality of a woman's breast. Mammograms aren't good at detecting
cancers in breast tissue that is dense or fibrous, as is common among female
athletes and premenopausal women.
The pace of medicine. With radiologists under pressure to read more films
more quickly, the risk of making mistakes has grown.
Studies on mammogram accuracy show that screenings miss anywhere from 5% to
17% of abnormalities. Yet many patients continue to believe that a
"clear" mammogram is the same as a clean bill of health.
Purpose of This Summary
This PDQ cancer information summary for health professionals provides comprehensive, peer-reviewed, evidence-based information about breast cancer prevention. It is intended as a resource to inform and assist clinicians who care for cancer patients. It does not provide formal guidelines or recommendations for making health care decisions.
Reviewers and Updates
This summary is reviewed regularly and updated as necessary by the PDQ Screening and Prevention Editorial...
"Even though there is no perfect test, and no perfect doctor, and no
perfect reading, patients expect perfect results,'' says Phan Huynh, M.D., a
breast imaging specialist at the University of Texas Health Science Center in
Michael D. Towle writes regularly for WebMD on health and