What Is a Diagnostic Mammogram?

A mammogram is an X-ray image of your breast used to screen for breast cancer. Mammograms play a key role in early breast cancer detection and help decrease breast cancer deaths.

During a mammogram, your breasts are compressed between two firm surfaces to spread out the breast tissue. Then an X-ray captures black-and-white images of your breasts that are displayed on a computer screen and examined by a doctor who looks for signs of cancer.

A mammogram can be used either for screening or for diagnostic purposes. How often you should have a mammogram depends on your age and your risk of breast cancer.

When is Mammography Required?

The risk of breast cancer increases with age. That is why it is very important for all menopausal women to get regular mammograms.

Mammography can be your best defense against breast cancer because it can frequently detect the disease in its early stages, often before it can be felt during a breast exam. Research has clearly shown that mammography can increase breast cancer survival.

How Well Do Mammograms Work?

These imaging tests help doctors diagnose about 75% to 85% of breast cancers. They can spot potential problems before they’re large enough to be felt. Detection rates improve as a woman ages because breasts become less dense with age. This makes tissue easier to see through on mammograms. 

Advancing technology raises detection rates. Three-dimensional mammography isn’t available yet at all mammogram facilities. But one study showed that using 3-D mammography along with digital mammograms improved detection rates and lowered the number of women who had to return for more tests because of a suspicious finding.

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