A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breasts. It is used to find tumour and to help tell the difference between noncancerous (benign) and cancerous (malignant) disease.
Mammography is performed to screen healthy women for signs of breast cancer. It is also used to evaluate a woman who has symptoms of breast disease, such as a lump, nipple discharge, breast pain, dimpling of the skin on the breast, or retraction of the nipple.
Screening mammograms test help improve the detection of early breast cancer, when it is more likely to be curable.
Women who have or had mother or sister with breast cancer should begin yearly mammograms earlier than the age the family member was diagnosed. Breast ultrasound may also be used to screen women at high risk.
In addition to mammography, clinical breast exams (the health care professional checks the breasts using the fingers) and monthly breast self-exams are often recommended.
All women aged 20 and older perform monthly breast self-examination.
These are general recommendations for mammography, clinical breast exams, and breast self-exam. Women should discuss with their personal health care provider how often to receive breast cancer screening, including mammography and clinical breast exam. Recommendations vary depending on personal risk factors such as a strong family history of breast cancer.