Having a Mammogram After You’ve Had Breast Cancer Surgery

There are many different kinds of breast cancer surgery, and the type of surgery you have had will determine whether you need to get mammograms in the future. If you have had breast-conserving surgery, you need to continue to get mammograms. If you have had a mastectomy, you may not need a mammogram.

Regardless of what breast cancer surgery you have had, you will still need to get mammograms of the unaffected breast. This is very important, because women who have had one breast cancer are at higher risk of developing a new cancer in the other breast.

While the American Cancer Society does not have specific recommendations or guidelines for mammograms or other breast imaging in women who have been treated for breast cancer, there is information available about what these women will likely need to do.

Mammograms after breast-conserving surgery

Most experts recommend that women who have had breast-conserving surgery or BCS (sometimes called a partial mastectomy or lumpectomy) get a mammogram of the treated breast 6 months after radiation treatment ends. Radiation and surgery both cause changes in the skin and breast tissues that will show up on the mammogram, making it harder to read. The changes usually show up best about 6 months after the radiation ends, and the mammogram done at this time serves as a new baseline for the affected breast. Future mammograms will be compared with this one, to help the doctor check on healing and look for signs that the cancer has come back (recurred).

Depending on the results, the next mammogram for that breast may be 6 to 12 months later. Follow-up mammograms of the treated breast should be done at least yearly after that, but some doctors may recommend that you have mammograms more often. Routine mammograms will still need to be done on the opposite (untreated) breast.

Mammograms after mastectomy

Women who have had a mastectomy (including simple mastectomy, modified radical mastectomy, and radical mastectomy) to treat breast cancer need no further routine screening mammograms on the affected side. If both breasts are removed, they don’t need mammograms at all. There isn’t enough tissue remaining after these kinds of mastectomies to do a mammogram. Cancer can come back in the skin or chest wall on that side, but it can be found on a physical exam.

It’s possible for women with reconstructed breasts to get mammograms, but experts agree that women who have breast reconstruction after a simple, modified radical mastectomy, or radical mastectomy don’t need routine mammograms. Still, if an area of concern is found during a physical exam on a woman who has had breast reconstruction, a diagnostic mammogram may be done. Ultrasound or MRI may also be used to look at the area closely.

Women who have had a subcutaneous mastectomy, also called skin-sparing mastectomy, still need follow-up mammograms. In this surgery, the woman keeps her nipple and the tissue just under the skin. Often, an implant is put under the skin. This surgery leaves behind enough breast tissue to require yearly screening mammograms in these women.

Any woman who’s not sure what type of mastectomy she has had or whether she needs to get mammograms should ask her doctor.

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: June 1, 2016 Last Revised: August 18, 2016

American Cancer Society medical information is copyrighted material. For reprint requests, please contact permissionrequest@cancer.org.