Breast Cancer Screening using Mammogram

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What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer if detected early can be completely cured.

Breast cancer is among the most common cancers in women of the industrialized world. It was responsible for 39,840 deaths in females in the United States in the year 2007. Some factors that increase a woman’s risk for developing breast include:

  • Age more than 50 years
  • Mutations of BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes
  • First-degree relative with breast cancer
  • Previous breast cancer
  • Prior exposure to radiation or hormone replacement therapy during menopause
  • Early menstruation or late menopause
  • Was never pregnant or had delayed pregnancy
  • Lack of breast feeding
  • Lack of physical activity
Breast cancer can spread to the other breast and also to other parts of the body and can result in death. It can be completely cured if detected early.


Screening with mammography is recommended to detect breast cancer in its early stages. Though results of mammography may not be 100% accurate, it is one of the best methods available for screening breast cancer. Women at high risk are now recommended double contrast MRI for better detection of the tumor.

When should screening for breast cancer with mammography be started?

Breast cancer screening with mammography should start once a woman is 40 years of age.

How frequently should mammography be done?

Mammogram may be repeated every 1 to 2 years between the ages of 40 and 50 and yearly thereafter till the age of 70.

Who should undergo screening with mammography?

Women over 40 years of age without prior breast cancer should undergo mammography. Women with family history of breast or ovarian cancer, abnormal breasts or certain genetic mutations predisposing to breast cancer are considered to be at high risk and are advised double contrast MRI instead of mammography. Younger women should be sure that they are not pregnant before undergoing the procedure.

How is a mammogram done?

A mammogram is a simple procedure done using a special x-ray machine. The breast is placed between two plastic plates of an x-ray machine and is slightly compressed. Two views of each breast are taken.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which doctors do mammography?

Mammography is done by a radiologist. Your physician could guide you to a radiologist in your area who does the test.

What happens if the mammography test comes abnormal?

If the mammogram comes abnormal, the woman may have to undergo further radiological tests and maybe a biopsy to rule out breast cancer.

Does mammography have any side effects?

Mammography may cause anxiety and slight pain during the procedure. It also exposes the woman to radiation. However, the dose of the radiation is very low and the benefits of the procedure outweigh the risks. The results of the test may not be 100% accurate. Some breast abnormalities other than cancer may appear suspicious on mammogram. Thus the woman may be subjected to further unnecessary tests. Mammograms may also not yield correct results in women with breast implants.

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