A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. It is a safe, effective way to detect
cancerous tumors and other abnormal breast conditions. Mammograms can
locate a tumor before it can be easily felt and while it is easier to treat.
How is it performed?
During a mammogram, a technician will X-ray each breast twice, once from
above and once from the side. To do this, each breast must be compressed
between two flat plates so that an accurate image can be taken. This can
be uncomfortable, but it only lasts a few seconds. It may help to schedule
this test for the week after your menstrual period, when your breasts
are less tender and lumpy. On the day of the mammogram, do not use deodorants,
lotions, or powders. These products can show up on the image.
Digital mammography, which is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
(FDA), records X-ray images in computer code and stores them electronically
instead of on X-ray film, as with conventional mammography. There is no
difference in your preparation or the procedure for a mammogram with a
If any abnormalities show up on the mammogram, your doctor may recommend
more tests and maybe a biopsy (removal of a small amount of tissue) to
check for cancer.
Get your mammogram at a site approved by the FDA for conventional or digital
mammography. The FDA ensures that facilities across the country meet quality
standards for safety and reliability.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends a mammogram every two
years for women aged to 50 to 74. The ACS and other organizations have
different age recommendations. Talk with your doctor about when you should
start having mammograms, and how often you should have them. He or she
will make a recommendation based on your risk and your medical and family history.