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5 Common Mammogram Questions

October 17, 2017

mammogram questions

Regular mammograms help detect breast cancer in its early stages — before you feel a lump. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, some women who have breast cancer have no symptoms.

But that doesn’t mean getting a mammogram doesn’t come with some nerve-wracking thoughts. Whether it’s your first mammogram or your fifth, you likely have a few questions.

Here are the answers to some commonly asked mammogram questions.

What does a mammogram do?

A mammogram helps detect breast cancer and other breast abnormalities using an X-ray. Mammograms are categorized into two types: diagnostic and screening. Diagnostic mammograms look for breast changes in women who have had an abnormal mammogram result. Screening mammograms look for breast cancer in women who don’t have any signs or symptoms of cancer.

When do I need to get regular mammograms?

The American Cancer Society recommends the following screening guidelines:

  • Age 40-44: You can begin to have annual mammograms, if you wish
  • Age 45-54: You should receive a mammogram every year
  • Age 55+: You can switch to screening every two years or continue screening every year

It’s also recommended you know how your breasts look and feel. If you notice any changes, talk to your doctor.

Are mammograms dangerous?

Although a mammogram is an X-ray of breast tissue, most modern machines use low-dose radiation to get results, which is not harmful. Mammograms typically produce high-quality images using two views of each breast.

What does it mean if I’m called back after my mammogram?

Though it can be scary to get called back after your mammogram, keep in mind that this precaution is fairly common and doesn’t mean you have cancer. Most of the time, it means they need more pictures or additional imaging to look at an area. You could get called back if:

  • The pictures weren’t clear or some of your breast tissue wasn’t included in the pictures
  • You have dense breast tissue or a cyst
  • Something like a calcification or a mass is seen
  • An area looks different from other parts of the breast

Can I have a mammogram if I have breast implants?

You still need regular mammograms even if you have implants, but be sure to tell the facility when you make your appointment and the technologist before the start of your exam. Implants also can make it difficult to see some areas of breast tissue — especially the tissue under the implant.