Basic Facts About Breast Health: Mammograms

Imaging is an important part of screening for breast cancer. A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray of the breast. While not always reliable, this is still the best test we have to screen women for breast cancer.

A screening mammogram consists of two "pictures" of each breast. If an area on the mammogram looks suspicious or is not clear, additional mammograms with different views may be needed. We recommend annual screening mammography for all women who are over 40 years old.

Diagnostic mammography is a mammogram used for problem solving, rather than for screening. For instance, if a patient has a lump in her breast, a directed investigation of that area is performed. This is also done when a particular finding in the breast is being followed over time. A diagnostic mammogram is tailored to the patient's case and is carefully monitored by a radiologist, who interprets the images and determines whether there is any need for further tests.

Basic Facts About Breast Health:


Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.