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Important breast cancer checks

Early detection is the best protection because finding breast cancer early improves the likelihood that treatment will be successful. Mammograms are safe and effective in detecting breast cancer in its earliest stage.

We make these recommendations for screening mammography if you have an average risk for breast cancer, based on American Cancer Society guidelines:

  • age 40-44: mammograms are optional
  • age 45-54: have a mammogram every year
  • age 55 & older: have a mammogram every year or transition to having one every two years
  • continue to have mammograms as long as your health is good.

If you have a higher than average risk for breast cancer, your health care provider may recommend a different schedule. Talk to your health care provider about your risk level. Together, you can decide what screening schedule is right for you.

To help you in your decision-making, please see our shared decision making aid: Should you start breast cancer screenings at age 40 or 45?

Learn more about 3-D mammograms.


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What it is

A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray picture of your breast used to check for breast cancer in women. The exam involves compressing your breasts between two panels for a few seconds so the X-ray can get a clear image of your breast tissue. You will feel pressure.

Your mammogram images will be taken digitally. This means images are captured and sent to a computer. The radiologist studies the images on a high-resolution computer screen.

Mammograms are safe, accurate and provide reliable results.

Good to know

Although mammograms are proven to find breast cancer in early stages, about 10% of cancers do not show up on mammograms.

Related links

Source: Allina Health Patient Education Department
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First published: 8/1/2018
Last reviewed: 8/1/2018