Honest answers from radiologists on the risks and benefits of mammography.

Q: Does getting a mammogram every year really help?

A: Regular mammography use has reduced breast cancer by nearly 40 percent since screening began in the mid 1980’s. But it’s more than that. Mammograms find tumors when they are small, before you can feel them, and when they can be better treated. This gives women a better chance for less surgery, less toxic chemotherapy, and less radiation treatment. – Debra Monticello, MD Radiologist

 

Q: Are there any risks to mammography?

A: Mammograms don’t find all cancers, and they do find things that turn out not to be cancer. Some women who get a mammogram will be asked to come back for another test to confirm or rule out that something is wrong. If those results rule out cancer, some people call the first results a false positive. – Debra Monticello, MD Radiologist

Mammography Math: For every 100 women who get a mammogram, 10 will be asked to come back for a closer look. Of those 10, two will be referred to have a needle biopsy. Fewer than one in every 100 women screened will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

 

Q: Every time I have a mammogram, I have such anxiety waiting for my results.

A: This is normal and will pass without lasting effects. The possibility of a cancer that kills thousands of people every year is of greater concern. Especially when breast cancer that is caught early can be effectively treated. –Katherine Hall, MD Radiologist

* Adapted from the video “Balancing Mammography Benefit vs. Risk”, on the ACR’s Mammography Saves Lives YouTube playlist.

 


Read more: Debunking Mammography Misinformation: Risks & Benefits of Mammograms – Part 2