What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast that looks for changes that may be signs of breast cancer. Get the basics about mammograms.

What to know about getting a mammogram

Whether you’re a mammogram newbie or a veteran, knowing what to expect may help the process go more smoothly. 

Mammograms for women with breast implants

If you have breast implants, you can and should get mammograms as recommended. But you might need to have extra pictures taken so the doctor can see as much breast tissue as possible. 

What does the doctor look for on a mammogram?

The doctor reading your mammogram will be looking for different types of breast changes, such as small white spots called calcifications, lumps or tumors called masses, and other suspicious areas that could be signs of cancer.

Getting called back after a mammogram

Getting called back after a screening mammogram is fairly common and doesn’t mean you have cancer. Often, it just means more x-rays or an ultrasound needs to be done to get a closer look at an area of concern.

Can a mammogram miss a breast cancer?

Mammograms are the best breast cancer screening tests we have at this time. But mammography has limitations.

Understanding your mammogram results

Doctors use a standard system to describe mammogram findings and results. This system is called the Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System (BI-RADS).

Breast density and mammograms

The density of your breasts is important. Cancers may be harder to find on mammograms in women with dense breasts. Having dense breasts might also affect your risk of breast cancer.

Mammograms after breast cancer

Women who have had breast cancer are at higher risk of developing another breast cancer. The American Cancer Society does not have specific recommendations or guidelines for mammograms or other breast imaging tests for women who have been treated for breast cancer, but there is information about what these women will likely need to do. 

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: September 1, 2017 Last Revised: October 9, 2017

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