The Basics: Overview
Breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in women. About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer sometime during her life.
The good news is that mammograms can help find breast cancer early. Most women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early.
How often should I get mammograms?
Women ages 40 to 49
Talk with your doctor about when to start getting mammograms and how often to get them.
Women ages 50 to 74
Get mammograms every 2 years. Talk with your doctor to decide if you need them more often.
What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. It lets your doctor see changes that can’t be felt during a breast exam. Mammograms use a very low level of x-rays, which are a type of radiation. A mammogram is very safe.
When you get mammograms, the nurse will place your breasts, one at a time, between 2 plastic plates and take pictures of them. Mammograms can be uncomfortable for some women, but they don’t hurt.
It takes about 20 minutes to get mammograms. Learn more about mammograms.
The Basics: Breast Cancer
What is breast cancer?
Abnormal (unusual) cells in the breast can turn into cancer. Breast cancer can spread to other parts of the body.
Talk with your doctor or nurse if you notice any of these changes:
- A lump in the breast or underarm (armpit)
- A change in size, shape, or feel of the breast
- Fluid (called discharge) coming out of a nipple
To learn more about breast cancer, check out “What You Need To Know About Breast Cancer.”
What if the doctor finds something wrong with my breast?
Mammograms let the doctor or nurse look for small lumps inside your breast. If a lump is found, you will need other tests to find out if it’s cancer.
The doctor or nurse may take a small bit of tissue from the lump for testing. This is called a biopsy (“BY-op-see”).