What is a mammogram? When should I get a mammogram?

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Breast cancer is a disease affecting approximately 2,300 men and 230,000 women annually in the United States.1 While most women are familiar with the term “mammogram,” they may not be aware of what it is, why it is used and when it should be done.

A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray exam used by health care providers to evaluate for abnormalities in the breast not felt by a clinical breast exam, or to evaluate abnormal breast findings.2

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Fast facts on mammograms

Here are some key points about mammograms. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

  • Every year over 200,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • Mammograms can help find breast cancer early, when treatments are more likely to be successful.
  • After increasing for many years, the percentage of women getting mammograms has leveled off over the past decade.
  • Around 203,400 breast cancer deaths have been averted since 1991.
  • Breast cancer death rate: down 34% between 1990 and 2010.
  • Around 66.8% of women in the US 40 years of age and over have had a mammogram within the past 2 years.
  • Of insured women, 29% are not getting their mammograms and of uninsured women, 68% are not getting their mammograms.
  • Results from randomized clinical trials show that screening mammography can help reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer among women ages 40 to 74, especially for those over age 50.
  • False-positive results occur when radiologists decide mammograms are abnormal but no cancer is actually present.
  • Getting a high-quality screening mammogram and having a clinical breast exam on a regular basis are the most effective ways to detect breast cancer early.
  • Talk to your doctor about your risk factors for breast cancer and the screening plan that is best for you.

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