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What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is a picture of the breast obtained through an X-ray. This diagnostic imaging test allows doctors to look for early signs of breast cancer.

For this procedure, a technologist places the woman’s breast on a plastic plate and another plate presses on the breast from above, flattening it while the technologist takes the X-ray. The steps are repeated to get a side view of the breast and the other breast.

A mammogram shows any masses, calcifications, distortions, and asymmetries. While it cannot tell if an abnormal area is cancerous, it can show healthcare providers that there is a need for more testing.

Why are mammograms important for healthcare?

Mammograms are used for screening and diagnostic purposes. When regularly performed for screening, a mammogram can detect breast cancer up to three years before it would have been felt.

Diagnostic mammograms are performed on women with an unusual screening mammogram or breast symptoms. These mammograms include additional breast images, and doctors may administer this type of mammogram on women previously treated for breast cancer.