Browse services
your locationFind care near me

Find Urgent Care today

Find and book appointments for:


Reasons to Get One, What to Expect, Associated Risks & More

Key Points

  • The article underscores the vital role of mammograms in the early detection of breast cancer, with two types highlighted: screening and diagnostic mammograms.
  • Screening mammograms are routine checks for women over 45, while diagnostic mammograms are performed when there are symptoms of cancer or unclear results from a screening mammogram.
  • Mammograms, which are X-ray images of the breast tissue, can sometimes yield false results, but are generally a valuable tool in cancer detection.
  • The article acknowledges the risks of mammograms, such as radiation exposure, but stresses that the benefits usually surpass the risks for most individuals.
  • The piece provides a comprehensive guide on what to anticipate during a mammogram and encourages patients to seek medical advice if they have concerns or abnormal results.

2 Reasons Why Would You Need a Mammogram

1. Screening mammograms

Screening mammograms are performed on a routine basis to check for cancer. Most women over age 45 should receive annual mammograms to screen for breast cancer,[1] but in some cases, your doctor may recommend having mammograms before 45. And, depending on your medical history, the doctor may suggest additional cancer screenings.[1]

2. Diagnostic mammograms

Diagnostic mammograms are performed when a person has cancer symptoms. Your doctor may also order a diagnostic mammogram if the results of your screening mammogram are unclear.[2] Diagnostic mammograms are in-depth tests. During this type of mammogram, your technician takes new pictures of your breast tissue. A radiologist also examines the images during the test to make sure the pictures are clear and readable.[3] Diagnostic mammograms let your doctor take a closer look at any areas of concern.

Understanding Mammograms

Mammograms are X-ray images of your breast tissue that can help reveal the presence of breast cancer.[4] Most women over 40 should receive at least one mammogram every 1-2 years, and are sometimes included in an annual well woman exam.[1]

Mammograms are an essential tool for diagnosing breast cancer in its earliest stages. The earlier your cancer is diagnosed, the better your chances for recovery. Even if your cancer is not curable, early detection can still help you live a longer and healthier life.[2]

But, not everyone needs a yearly mammogram. Women under 40 seldom undergo mammograms unless they have symptoms of breast cancer. Your doctor may also suggest early mammograms if you have a family history of breast cancer, but most healthy young women do not need screening mammograms.[1]

While mammograms are a valuable tool, they cannot detect all forms of breast cancer. Some people who undergo mammograms receive false negative results, which means they have cancer, but it does not show up on the mammogram.[2] In other cases, a person may receive a false positive result, which can incorrectly show that a person has cancer.[2]

Like all diagnostic tests, mammograms have limitations. Your doctor can help you interpret your test results and make decisions about your future care. If your mammogram results are normal, but you are still concerned about breast cancer, ask your doctor for additional advice.

Your doctor may also recommend performing monthly self-exams to check for lumps or changes in your breast tissue. If you notice any changes, do not wait until your next check-up or mammogram. Contact your doctor right away.[1]

Risks of a Mammogram

Mammograms are a useful diagnostic tool, but they also carry some risks. Mammograms use a small amount of radiation to view your breast tissue. Over time, radiation exposure can increase your risk of cancer.[2]

Radiation exposure can be especially dangerous for a developing fetus, so you should not receive a mammogram if you are pregnant.[2] If you think you may be pregnant, notify your doctor or technician before having an X-ray. 

For most people, the benefits of mammograms far outweigh the risks. Mammograms can help detect cancer in its early stages while it is still treatable. But, if you are at low risk for breast cancer, it may be safer to have mammograms less often. Consult with your doctor to determine whether you need to receive yearly mammograms.

What to Expect with a Mammogram

During a mammogram, patients are directed to stand in front of an X-ray machine. A technician places your bare breast on a special plate, and a second plate is used flatten out your breast tissue. The machine then takes X-rays of your breasts.[4]

In some cases, your technician may need to take several different images to get precise results. This is a normal part of the mammogram process and not a cause for alarm.

After your mammogram is over, you can return home and resume your normal activities. You can usually expect to receive your results within a few weeks.[3] If you have not received your results by then, contact your doctor directly.

If your results are normal, no further action is needed. Continue performing self-exams at home and always receive your next screening mammogram on schedule.

If your results are abnormal, you may need more tests. Keep in mind that an abnormal mammogram does not necessarily mean that you have cancer as false positives sometimes

occur. However, your doctor may refer you to a specialist so you can receive an expert opinion on your test results.[4]

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Mammograms

  • Am I at high risk for breast cancer?
  • How often should I receive a mammogram?
  • When should I start receiving mammograms?
  • How will I be notified of my results?
  • What happens if my results are abnormal?
  • Where should I receive my mammogram?
  • What breast cancer screenings are safe for pregnant women?

Mammograms May Also Be Known as

  • Breast X-ray
  • Roentgenogram
  • Breast screening


  1. American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer.
  2. National Cancer Institute. Mammograms.
  3. American Cancer Society. Mammograms: What to Know Before You Go.
  4. Center for Disease Control. What Is a Mammogram?

Frequently asked questions

  • What is the purpose of mammograms?

    Mammograms are used primarily for the early detection of breast cancer.
  • What's the difference between screening and diagnostic mammograms?

    Screening mammograms are routine checks usually recommended for women over 45, while diagnostic mammograms are more detailed and are performed when there are symptoms of cancer or unclear results from a screening mammogram.
  • Can mammograms give false results?

    Yes, there is a possibility of mammograms yielding false results, but they are generally a valuable tool in detecting breast cancer.
  • Are there any risks associated with mammograms?

    Yes, mammograms do carry risks such as radiation exposure. However, for most people, the benefits of early detection of breast cancer outweigh these risks.
  • What should I expect during a mammogram?

    During a mammogram, your breast tissue will be X-rayed to check for any abnormalities. The procedure may cause some discomfort but is generally quick.
  • What should I do if my mammogram results are abnormal?

    If your mammogram results are abnormal, it's important to consult your doctor for further advice and potential next steps.
  • Are mammograms recommended for all women?

    Mammograms are typically recommended for women over the age of 45, but it's best to consult with your doctor to determine when you should start getting them.
  • What questions should I ask my doctor about mammograms?

    You can ask about the benefits and risks, how often you should get one, what to expect during the procedure, and what the results mean.

Related Health Concerns




Family Planning

Hot Flashes

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

IUD Birth Control




Night Sweats

Oral Surgery

Sexual Health

Skin Cancer



Urinary Incontinence


Solv App

Quality healthcare is just a
click away with the Solv App

Book same-day care for you and your family

Find top providers near you
Choose in-person or video visits
Manage visits on-the-go
Get the FREE App

This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By using Solv, you accept our use of cookies.