Mammo-what??? Mammography Explained


A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast in order to examine breast tissue and evaluate breast health. Mammography is useful in detecting growths or microcalcifications that may be too small or missed by your physician. Mammography is also an essential tool in early breast cancer detection that is essential for treatment and cure.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in Canadian women. In fact, 1 in 9 Albertan women alone will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Symptoms of breast cancer can include lumps, pain, nipple discharge, change in shape or size and thickening of skin or breast tissue.

Canada Diagnostic Centres’ Recommended Schedule for Mammogram Screening

Age 40-49: Every year

Age 50-74: Every 2 years (low risk) or every year (higher risk)

Age 75+: Every 2 years

Women Age 40+: If you have not had a screening mammogram recently, you should talk to your doctor about booking an appointment.

Different types of mammograms

1. Screening exams – Involves a regular check-up for breast health when no symptoms are present

  • Screening mammograms are recommended for all women between the ages 50-74
  • Women ages 40-49 and over the age of 75 should talk to their healthcare provider about their need for screening

2. Diagnostic exams – Involves evaluating breast tissue when symptoms are present (ie. pain, lump, unusual changes to the skin or nipple) or to further investigate changes found on a screening mammogram

  • Diagnostic mammograms are also used to evaluate hard-to-see tissue due to special circumstances (ie. implants or recent breast surgery)
  • A diagnostic exam can be done at any age

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