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Mammogram

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast that is used to screen for breast cancer. Mammograms can find tumors that are too small for you or your doctor to feel.

Cancer is most easily treated and cured when it is discovered in an early stage. Mammograms do not prevent breast cancer or reduce a woman's risk of developing cancer. But for women ages 40 to 74, mammograms can help reduce deaths from breast cancer.1

Your doctor may recommend testing at a younger age if you have risk factors for breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Screening: When Should I Start Having Mammograms?

A mammogram that appears to detect a cancer, when in fact a cancer is not present (false-positive results), can occur at any age but is more likely to occur in younger women. About 5% to 10% of screening mammograms will require more testing. This may include another mammogram of specific breast tissue or another test, such as an ultrasound. Most of these tests will show no cancer is present.

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Breast Cancer Screening: When Should I Start Having Mammograms?

Why It Is Done

A mammogram is done to:

  • Screen for breast cancer in women without symptoms.
  • Detect breast cancer in women with symptoms. Symptoms of breast cancer may include a lump or thickening in the breast, nipple discharge, or dimpling of the skin on one area of the breast.
  • Locate an area of suspicious breast tissue to remove for examination under a microscope (biopsy) when an abnormality is found.

How To Prepare

If you have previously had a mammogram done at another clinic, have the results sent or bring them with you to your examination.

Tell your doctor if you:

  • Are or might be pregnant. A mammogram is an X-ray test with exposure to low-dose radiation and is not done for routine screening during pregnancy.
  • Are breast-feeding. A mammogram may not provide clear results in breasts that contain milk.
  • Have breast implants. Breast implants require a modified mammogram method.
  • Have previously had a breast biopsy. Knowing the location of scar tissue will help the radiologist read your mammogram accurately.

On the day of the mammogram, do not use any deodorant, perfume, powders, or ointments on your breasts. The residue left on your skin by these substances may interfere with the X-rays.

If you are still having menstrual periods, you may want to have your mammogram done within 2 weeks after your menstrual period ends. The procedure will be more comfortable, especially if your breasts become tender before your period starts.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 05, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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