Breast cancer is a fierce enemy. It remains the most frequently diagnosed non-skin cancer in women, with more than 200,000 new cases each year. Early detection and treatment are essential to fighting the disease, and mammograms—which often detect breast cancer before any physical symptoms—are an invaluable tool for diagnosis.
At its most basic, a mammogram is simply a low-dose x-ray of the breast. The test helps detect very small tumors, often those that are too small for health care professionals to find on their own. Some mammograms may appear to detect cancer, which is in fact not present. This is called a false-positive result. In fact, about 80 percent of breast abnormalities are benign, including calcifications, cysts and other masses. In some cases, mammogram results require more testing, including examination of specific tissue or complementary exams, such as ultrasound.
Your health care team may recommend a mammogram for a variety of reasons, including: