Shadow on mammogram causes

Mammogram shows Mass: Characteristics of a Mass

Mammogram shows Mass: Malignant Features

These features include:-

  • Angular margins
  • Spiculations
  • Shadowing
  • Branch pattern extensions
  • Certain microcalcifications
  • Duct extensions
  • Microlobulations
  • Markedly hypoechoic
  • Parietal thickening
  • Intracystic nodules
  • Size greater than 1 cm
  • Growth non-parallel to the skin.

Mammogram shows Mass: Benign Features

Radiologists will consider a mass benign, until proven otherwise, if it has no malignant features. Plus:-

  • Few lobulations
  • Ellipsoid shap
  • Intense uniform hyperechogenicity
  • Thin Echogenic capsule

Furthermore, radiologists will call a breast mass ‘indeterminate’ if there are no malignant features and none of the benign combinations.

In the ultrasound image below, one notes a suspicious hypoechoic mass with microlobulations. This mass would definitely need a biopsy. A radiologist would probably give a BI-RADS classification of either category 4C, or 5. ( Many constituencies don’t use BI-RADS 4 a, b, and c, but simply differentiate between categories 4 and 5. If required to choose, this mass is most likely a BI-RADS category 5 breast lesion.)

BI-RADS categories of suspected masses: Probability of malignancy and usual follow up

The BI-RADS categories are based on various mass characteristics and indicate increasing probabilities of malignant breast cancer.

Radiologists usually would recommend a biopsy at BI-RADS category level 4. The chances of malignancy greatly increase once features consistent with the ‘intermediate’ level of BI-RADS 4b are present.

These features include powderish microcalcifications along with microlobulated contours and evolving asymmetric densities.

BI-RADS category Screening Findings Approximate probability of malignancy Follow-up Recommendation
0 Evaluation incomplete, needs additional imaging
1 Negative 0 mammogram at normal interval
2 Benign 0 mammogram at normal interval
3 Probably Benign less than 2% shortened interval mammogram
4 Suspicious abnormalities Ranges from 3 to 95% Consider a biopsy
4a Suspicious abnormalities 3-10% biopsy
4b Suspicious abnormalities 10-50% biopsy
4c Suspicious abnormalities 50-95% biopsy
5 Highly Suggestive of Malignancy 95% or more Appropriate confirmation and staging procedures
6 Malignancy proven histologically 100% Staging procedures and treatment therapies
  • American College of Radiology. Breast Imaging and Reporting Data System. Fifth edition. Reston V A, American College of Radiology 2004
  • Leung JW, Sickles EA. (2007) Developing asymmetry identified on mammography: correlation with imaging outcome and pathologic findings. AJR Am J Roentgenol 2007;188:667-675.

More references for this section are on this page.

Back to Mammography list OR our new breast cancer site OR our latest Breast Cancer Incidence and Survival rates

Results of Your Mammogram

Commonly Asked Questions

If I Need Additional Tests, Does This Mean You Think I Have Cancer?

No. Most of the patients whose mammograms suggest a need for additional testing don’t have cancer. However, it’s our job to be extremely cautious and thorough when it comes to protecting your health. We want to ensure that we don’t overlook any potential problems. Often, a different mammography view or other test will make it clear if there is any need for any concern.

If I Have to Come Back for More Testing, Does This Mean the Technologist Made a Mistake?

No. The reason we most often ask someone to return for additional views is because of a “summation shadow.” This occurs when several insignificant areas of dense tissue appear together in one location on a mammogram, creating a shadow that appears to be a major/significant density. Additional views, with compression, can help us to separate these minor densities from each other.
The most common reason for us to have to repeat a test is because a patient moved during the imaging. However, this occurs during fewer than 1% of the mammograms we perform.

Why Do I Need an Ultrasound Exam if a mammogram is the Best Test for Detecting Breast Cancer?

Mammography is the single best test for revealing breast abnormalities. However, it is not able to indicate whether a lump that you feel or a mass on a mammogram is solid or cystic (fluid-filled). This information is very important and will help doctors decide whether you need to have a biopsy.

What Does the Category Shown at the Bottom of My Results Letter Indicate?

Category 0
The radiologist does not currently have enough information to issue a finding. Additional imaging, including the use of spot compression, magnification, ultrasound, or special mammographic views may be needed to help the radiologist make a more complete evaluation.
Category 1
The radiologist determined that your mammogram results are normal.
Category 2
This category indicates that your mammogram results are normal but the radiologist saw the presence of some benign conditions such as calcifications, calcified fibroadenomas (non-cancerous tumors), or intramammary lymph nodes (lymph nodes within breast tissue).
Category 3
The radiologist found an abnormality that is probably benign but needs to be monitored.
If your mammogram shows a Category 3 finding, we strongly recommend you have follow-up mammograms every 6 months for a year and once a year after that. Close monitoring will allow doctors to notice any change in your condition that could indicate the presence of cancer without your having to have a biopsy. We also offer surgical consultations to every patient who receives a Category 3 rating.
Category 4 or 5
The radiologist has found a “suspicious” lump and is recommending that you have a biopsy. Although these classifications don’t necessarily mean that you have breast cancer, we strongly encourage patients with Category 4 and 5 ratings to consult with one of our experienced, board-certified surgeons.

How 3D Mammography Changed My Life

As a retired school teacher of 40 years, Gail Woolard knows the importance of following directions. When it comes to her health, she listens to the recommended guidelines to receive a yearly mammogram, starting at the age of 40. Following these directions — year in and year out — not only gave Gail peace of mind, but it may have saved her life.

Gail started having annual screening mammograms at Wake Radiology more than 15 years ago. Early on, she was told that she, like many women, has dense breast tissue. This was often the culprit for inconclusive mammogram results that required she come back for additional breast images. She learned that having dense breasts makes it more difficult to accurately read a mammogram and started taking the extra images in stride — willing to do what was needed to make sure she was cancer free.

Last May, at the age of 63, Gail went to the Wake Radiology Garner office for her annual screening appointment. That office was now providing 3D mammography — a revolutionary new breast imaging technology. Images from Gail’s first 3D mammogram showed an area of concern in her right breast.

“When the radiologist showed my husband and me my mammogram, we couldn’t see anything except a shadow,” said Gail. “I was surprised when Dr. John Matzko was able to identify a peppercorn-sized spot that turned out to be cancer. With my dense breast tissue, the lump was so small that it was essentially undetectable by an untrained eye and really only found because of the 3D technology.”

Gail’s “spot” was undetectable by breast ultrasound, and that’s when she traveled to the Wake Radiology office in Cary for a core biopsy with Breast Imaging Radiologist, Dr. Danielle Wellman. The position of Gail’s lump was about 4.5 inches below her collarbone — a place that some women forget to feel during self exams, even though it is still part of the breast tissue.

“Dr. Wellman is the absolute dream! I just think the world of her,” said Gail. “She and Jacqueline, my technologist, explained the entire procedure to me, told me what was going to happen, one step at a time, which made it a lot easier. Dr. Wellman also assured me that everything would be manageable and treatable. I appreciated her time and attention so much.”

Just three days later, Dr. Wellman called Gail to explain that her biopsy results were inconclusive. Unfortunately, the procedure needed to be repeated due to the hard-to-find blood vessel in Gail’s breast and the high location of the tumor.

“I was nervous, but determined to stay positive. In fact, I just went ahead and scheduled my next appointment with Dr. Wellman and Jacqueline,” said Gail. “This was a big relief since they knew my body and had been so professional and made me feel as relaxed and secure as I could be.”

“Honestly, I couldn’t have done it without them,” Gail continued. “They were such a team and reassured me multiple times that we could get through it — their positive attitude and confidence made me feel secure.” Dr. Wellman assured Gail that she would be available to answer any questions that she may have.

In July, Gail had surgery to remove her Stage 1 breast cancer. The tumor was so small that even the surgeon couldn’t feel it. She recently completed her first round of radiation and will not have to undergo chemo due to the early 3D detection.

For Gail, a 3D mammogram made the difference in when her breast cancer was detected and saved her a world of complications.

“Multiple healthcare professionals have told me that had I not opted for a 3D screening mammogram, my cancer may have not been found until at least a year later. I feel so lucky to have had it caught so early,” said Gail.

Gail hopes her story will convince women over 40 to “follow the rules” and get regular screening mammograms. “If women have 3D as an option, they need to take advantage of it. If I had not received a 3D mammogram, my tumor would have had a year to grow. Mammograms are uncomfortable for five minutes, but that’s it!”

Wake Radiology is the Triangle leader in 3D mammography with 8 offices and 10 units available to patients in Cary, Chapel Hill, Garner, Smithfield, Wake Forest and various locations throughout Raleigh. It’s simple to have a 3D mammogram, you can select 3D when you make an online appointment request or talk with one of our schedulers at 919-232-4700.

False-Positive Mammogram Results

A mammogram is considered a screening test because it can only point to abnormalities on the X-ray film that might be cancer. If something looks suspicious, then additional diagnostic tests will be done.

Further complicating the process is the complexity of reading a mammogram. Each woman’s breast looks different on a mammogram. A shadow on one woman’s breast may, upon further testing, end up being just that, while on another woman’s breast, a true mass is revealed, requiring further testing, such as a biopsy.

Why a False-Positive Mammogram Occurs

Situations that put a woman at greater risk for a false-positive mammogram include:

  • Dense breast tissue. Dense breast tissue is most often seen in younger, pre-menopausal women; in pregnant or nursing women; and in post-menopausal women undergoing hormone therapy. The radiologist may not be able to see through the dense tissue on the typical two mammographic views per breast and may ask you to come back for additional mammogram views.
  • Calcification. This is a tiny deposit of calcium within the breast tissue that looks like a small white spot on the X-ray film. A calcification can be an early indicator of a type of breast cancer known as DCIS, or ductal carcinoma in situ. Or it can be a benign calcium deposit that amounts to nothing more than a fibrocystic change in your breast, aging arteries, inflammation, or evidence of past injuries to the breast. Your doctor may ask for additional mammogram views to see if your calcification is benign, meaning its edges are round and smooth. If the edges are lacy and branched out, or if the calcification is a new finding after several years of uneventful mammograms, your doctor may want to do a needle biopsy, which involves inserting a needle to remove tissue or fluid for analysis. In some cases, particularly if the calcification is close to the chest wall, a surgical biopsy may be necessary, requiring the surgeon to make an incision in the breast and remove the abnormal area.
  • Cysts or other masses. Cysts are benign, usually fluid-filled sacs, whereas a true breast cancer tumor is solid. The difference is not apparent on first glimpse. If your doctor sees any kind of mass on your mammogram results, you may be called back in for additional views; your breasts will be pressed down and viewed to see if the mass goes away, which means it was simply dense tissue. If your doctor still sees a mass, you may be asked to have an ultrasound exam, which can discern the difference between a fluid-filled sac and a solid tumor. Even then, an ultrasound may not be conclusive because not all solid masses are tumors. It may be a fibroadenoma, which is a benign (non-cancerous) tumor. But if your doctor sees a solid mass on your ultrasound, you may be scheduled for a biopsy. Sometimes a mass may be part solid and part fluid, and your doctor may want to repeat your mammogram in a few months to see if it’s changed.

Decreasing the False-Positive Odds

There will always be a certain percentage of false positives among women getting mammograms. But you can take steps to reduce your personal risk of false-positives by making sure your radiologist has all your past mammography films to use as a baseline for comparison with your current mammogram. You should also get your mammograms at a qualified practice where breast imaging is a specialty or at least a large part of the practice. And remember that if you are one of the women called back for further testing, the odds are still in your favor that you will get a clean bill of health.

Several large studies, including a review by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in 2009 and a study on the causes of death in the United Kingdom in 2013, have questioned the value of screening mammograms.

Doctors who question the value of mammograms say that while mammograms do save lives, for each breast cancer death prevented, three to four women are overdiagnosed. Overdiagnosis means either:

  • a screening mammogram finds a suspicious area that would have been eventually diagnosed as cancer by other means, without any effect on prognosis
  • a screening mammogram finds a suspicious area that never would have affected a woman’s health if it hadn’t been found or treated

False positive results from screening mammograms also have helped fuel the debate about the value of breast cancer screening. When a mammogram shows an abnormal area that looks like a cancer but turns out to be normal, it’s called a false positive. Ultimately the news is good: no breast cancer. But the suspicious area usually requires follow-up with more than one doctor, extra tests, and extra procedures, including a possible biopsy. There are psychological, physical, and economic costs that come with a false positive.

These studies and the resulting stories in the media have fueled an ongoing debate about the value of screening mammograms.

A study suggests that women who receive false-positive mammogram results may be more likely to put off their next scheduled mammogram.

The research was published online on Feb. 9, 2017 by the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Read the abstract of “Impact of a False-Positive Screening Mammogram on Subsequent Screening Behavior and Stage at Breast Cancer Diagnosis.”

To see how a false positive screening mammogram result affected women, the researchers looked at the records of women who received mammograms through a large healthcare organization in the Chicago area and who had not been diagnosed with breast cancer. The researchers looked at 741,150 screening mammograms from 261,767 women:

  • 90,918 of the mammogram results were false positives (12.3%)
  • 650,232 were true negative results (87.7%)

The researchers defined a delay in mammogram screening as any mammogram that was done more than 12 months after the particular mammogram the researchers chose.

Women who had a false positive result were more likely to delay their next mammogram:

  • women with false positive results waited about 36 months to have their next mammogram
  • women with true negative results waited about 13 months to have their next mammogram

This difference was statistically significant, which means that it was likely due to the difference in results and not just because of chance.

“This suggests that we need to more actively encourage women who have a false positive result from a screening mammogram to adhere to routine screening mammography recommendations because it has been shown to reduce breast cancer mortality,” said Firas Dabbous, Ph.D., of the Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. “It’s a delicate balance. We want to detect tumors when they are present but we don’t want to overburden women with a lot of false positives and a workup that is not needed.”

If you’re 40 or older and have an average risk of breast cancer, yearly screening mammograms should be part of your healthcare. If your breast cancer risk is higher than average, you should talk to your doctor about a more aggressive breast cancer screening plan that makes the most sense for your particular situation.

There’s only one of you and you deserve the best care possible. Don’t let any obstacles, including fear of a false positive, get in the way of your regular screening mammograms:

  • If you’re worried about cost, talk to your doctor, a local hospital social worker, or staff members at a mammogram center. Ask about free programs in your area.
  • If you’re having problems scheduling a mammogram, call the National Cancer Institute (800-4-CANCER) or the American College of Radiology (800-227-5463) to find certified mammogram providers near you.
  • If you find mammograms painful, ask the mammography center staff members how the experience can be as easy and as comfortable as possible for you.

For more information on mammograms, visit the Mammograms page.

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Published on February 13, 2017 at 9:34 AM

During a decade of receiving mammograms, more than half of cancer-free women will be among those summoned back for more testing because of false-positive results, and about one in 12 will be referred for a biopsy.

Karla Kerlikowske, MD

Simply shifting screening to every other year lowers a woman’s probability of having one of these false-positive episodes by about a third – from 61 percent to 42 percent – over the course of a decade.

A new study delving into false-positives in mammography looked at nearly 170,000 women between the ages of 40 and 59 from seven regions around the United States, and almost 4,500 women with invasive breast cancer. Because of the added decade of testing alone, it found, women who start mammograms at 40 instead of 50 are more likely to have false-positive results that lead to more testing.

“This study provides accurate estimates of the risk of a false-positive mammography and breast biopsy for women undergoing repeat mammography in community practice, and so provides important information about the potential harms of undergoing regular mammography,” said co-author Karla Kerlikowske, a professor of medicine at the UCSF School of Medicine.

The study will be published in Annals of Internal Medicine. The research was led by Group Health Research Institute of Seattle for the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium.

“Recalls’’ for a second mammogram for what turn out to be non-cancer results, known as false positives, may cause inconvenience and anxiety. Recommendations for fine-needle aspiration or surgical biopsy are less common, but can lead to unnecessary pain and scarring. The additional testing also contributes to rising medical costs.

Kerlikowske is the lead author of an additional report – to be published in the same issue of Annals – that for the first time in the United States examines the accuracy of film mammography against digital, which has increasingly replaced older film screening.

That study looked at nearly 330,000 women between the ages of 40 and 79. The data was pooled from the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium, a collaborative network of mammography registries in the United States.

The researchers found that overall cancer detection rates were similar for both methods. However, digital screening may be better for women between the ages of 40 and 49 who are more likely to have extremely dense breasts associated with lower cancer detection. The study also found new evidence that digital mammography is better at detecting estrogen receptor-negative tumors, particularly in women aged 40 to 49 years.

Breast cancer may not be detected, the researchers caution, if a radiologist fails to identify a visible breast lesion or if a tumor is obscured by normal breast tissue. Additionally, an imperceptible tumor may grow quickly and be discovered through a clinical exam prior to the next mammogram.

Digital mammography was developed in part to improve the detection of breast cancer in dense breasts by improving the ability to distinguish normal dense breast tissue from isodense invasive cancer.

The authors note that for every 10,000 women 40 to 49 who are given digital mammograms, two more cases of cancer will be identified for every 170 additional false-positive examinations.

Healthy women will undergo 12 screening mammograms in their lifetimes if they follow U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines that recommend biennial screening starting at age 50 and continuing until age 74. This is controversial, with many practitioners recommending annual mammograms.

If women start biennial screening at 40, they will undergo 17 exams; those who start annual screenings at age 40 will undergo 34 exams.

For the false-positive study, the researchers found that after a decade of annual screening, a majority of women will receive at least one false-positive result, and 7 to 9 percent will receive a false-positive biopsy recommendation.

“We conducted this study to help women know what to expect when they get regular screening mammograms over the course of many years,’’ said study leader Rebecca Hubbard, PhD, an assistant investigator at Group Health Research Institute. “We hope that if women know what to expect with screening, they’ll feel less anxiety if – or when – they are called back for more testing. In the vast majority of cases, this does not mean they have cancer.’’

The researchers say that screening every other year would likely lessen the probability of false-positive results “but could also delay cancer diagnosis.’’ However, for those diagnosed with cancer, the authors found women screened every two years were not significantly more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage cancer compared to those screened at one-year intervals.

The study stresses the importance of radiologists being able to review a patient’s previous mammograms because it “may halve the odds of a false-positive recall.’’

Co-authors of both studies are Diana L. Miglioretti, PhD, of Group Health Research Institute, and Bonnie C. Yankaskas, PhD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The National Cancer Institute funded the studies.

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.


A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray of the breast that can be performed to help with the detection and diagnosis of breast cancer.

Screening mammograms

Screening mammograms are performed on women without any symptoms of breast cancer as a way of detecting breast cancer in its early stages, when treatment is most likely to be successful. Screening mammograms can detect breast cancers that are too small to be felt as lumps in the breast.

Recommendations for screening mammography

The national breast cancer screening program, BreastScreen Australia, offers free mammograms to women throughout Australia. BreastScreen Australia is targeted specifically at women without symptoms aged 50 to 74 years.

Women aged between 50 and 74 years are encouraged to have 2-yearly screening mammograms. This is because increasing age is the biggest risk factor for breast cancer, and 75 per cent of all breast cancers affect women aged over 50 years.

Women aged 40 to 49 years and women older than 75 years are also eligible to have free screening mammograms if they choose to, but should discuss it with their GP first.

Regular screening mammograms are not recommended for women younger than 40. Screening mammograms are less reliable in women who are younger than 40 years because the density of their breast tissue makes it difficult to be able to detect breast cancers. Also, there is a lower risk of breast cancer in women this age compared with older women.

Other screening tests

Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is also used to screen some women, particularly those aged less than 50 years who have a high genetic risk of breast cancer.

Changes in your breasts

Of course, women of any age who notice changes in their breasts should see their doctor. Changes include:

  • change in breast size;
  • change in breast shape or appearance;
  • skin changes on the breast;
  • change in the appearance of the nipple;
  • nipple discharge;
  • a breast lump; and
  • pain in the breast.

Also see your doctor if you are concerned about your individual risk of breast cancer.

Diagnostic mammograms

Diagnostic mammograms are a more complex X-ray of the breast, performed as part of the investigation of a breast problem, such as a breast lump, pain, skin change or nipple discharge.

Diagnostic mammograms are also performed to further evaluate any abnormalities that may have been detected during a screening mammogram.


The risks associated with having a mammogram include:

  • exposure to low-level radiation; and
  • getting a false-positive result (when the mammogram result indicates possible breast cancer, but further investigation reveals no cancer).

However, for most women, the benefits of regular mammograms outweigh the risks.

Modern mammography machines use the smallest amount of radiation possible, meaning there is minimal exposure to radiation.

While false-positive results are associated with stress and anxiety and the need for further testing, it’s important to remember that most abnormal findings seen on mammograms are not cancer.

Abnormal mammogram results

Having an abnormal mammogram is understandably a worrying experience. But it is important to remember that most abnormal mammograms do not mean breast cancer.

A number of things other than cancer can produce an abnormality on your mammogram.

  • Shadows — these can due to increased density of breast tissue or harmless (benign) cysts.
  • Calcium deposits (calcification) — although large numbers of tiny calcium deposits may be associated with cancer, calcification can also be caused by ageing, injury or a benign lump such as a fibroadenoma.
  • Scarring — this might be due to a previous breast surgery or biopsy.

Tests after an abnormal mammogram

If your mammogram is abnormal, further tests will be necessary to determine the exact cause of the abnormality.

You may need to have further mammograms, looking more closely at the site of the abnormality. Sometimes an ultrasound of the breast is needed. This painless test can help tell if cysts are present.

Samples of breast tissue may be needed for examination under the microscope. These samples are obtained in a variety of ways.

  • Fine needle aspiration — cells are obtained through a narrow needle attached to a syringe.
  • Core biopsy — a small sample of tissue is removed with a needle, usually under local anaesthetic. The biopsy may be guided by an X-ray or ultrasound.
  • Surgical biopsy — the suspicious area is sampled or removed in an operation. This is usually under general anaesthetic. A thin wire may be inserted under X-ray control immediately before the biopsy to indicate the abnormal area. The surgeon will then be able to locate the wire and be sure of sampling the correct area.

All these procedures are relatively painless and are aimed at eliminating the possibility of breast cancer. If you are found to have breast cancer, early detection and removal greatly increase your chance of a complete recovery.

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Last Reviewed: 15/07/2013


What if They Think They See Something on My Mammogram

Position of breast during mammography

“They think they see something on my mammogram.”

The fear this sentence creates is real, but can be quieted by facts. Most abnormalities on a mammogram are NOT breast cancer.

What is a screening mammogram?

During a screening mammogram, the breast is X-rayed in two different positions: from top to bottom and from side to side. When a mammogram is viewed, breast tissue appears white and opaque (cloudy), and fatty tissue appears darker and translucent (semitransparent).

On a screening mammogram, questionable abnormalities sometimes need additional evaluation. With further examination, most of these questionable abnormalities are found to be normal breast tissue or benign (non-cancerous) tissue.

Screening mammograms are recommended every year for all women starting at age 40. Screening mammograms are also done for women who have no signs or symptoms related to the breasts (asymptomatic).

How often are abnormalities found in a screening mammogram?

Potential abnormalities are found in 6 to 8 percent of women who have screening mammograms. This small group of women needs further evaluation that might include breast physical examination, diagnostic mammography, breast ultrasound, or needle biopsy.

After this additional evaluation is complete, most women who have potential abnormalities on a screening mammogram are found to have nothing wrong.

How does an abnormality appear on a mammogram?

A potential abnormality on a mammogram might be called a nodule, mass, lump, density, or distortion:

  • A mass (lump) with a smooth, well-defined border is often benign.
  • Ultrasound is needed to see and describe the inside of a mass. If the mass contains fluid, it is called a cyst.
  • A mass (lump) that has an irregular border or a starburst appearance (spiculated) might be cancerous, and a biopsy is usually recommended.

Microcalcifications (small deposits of calcium) are another type of abnormality. They can be classified as benign, suspicious, or indeterminate. Most microcalcifications are benign. Depending on how the microcalcifications appear on the additional studies (magnification views), a biopsy might be recommended.

What is a diagnostic mammogram?

Diagnostic mammograms are done for women who have potential abnormalities that have been detected on a screening mammogram. These mammograms are also done for women who have signs or symptoms related to the breasts (symptomatic). Diagnostic mammograms differ from screening mammograms in that they focus on the potential abnormality or symptom.

Depending on the potential abnormality, different studies might be done. Some women need only additional mammographic images. Other women will have additional mammographic images and an ultrasound.

What is a digital mammogram?

Digital mammograms are newer technology films that use the computer to produce the images. The equipment is very much like a digital camera and can see things better, especially in the case of dense breasts. Digital mammograms are usually recommended for dense breast tissue or for women under the age of 50. The films cannot be lost. However, the amount of compression (squeezing) and radiation is the same as with analog films.

How accurate is mammography?

Mammography is 85 percent to 90 percent accurate. Mammograms have improved the ability to detect breast abnormalities before they are large enough to be felt. However, it is possible that a mass that can be felt (palpable) might not be seen on a mammogram. Any abnormality that you feel when examining your breasts should be evaluated by your health care provider. A diagnostic mammogram might be recommended.

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