Mammography is the study of breasts that use low-dose x-rays to help in the early detection and diagnosis of breast diseases in women, primarily breast cancer.
Mammograms can save lives if breast cancer is detected as early as possible; for example, mammograms have been shown to decrease the risk of dying from breast cancer by 35% in women over 50. In women in their 40s and 50s, the risk reduction appears to be somewhat lower. Leading specialists, the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and the American College of Radiology recommend annual mammograms for women over age 40.
When to have a mammogram?
There is a lot of confusion about when and how often to have a mammogram. For now, the recommendation is that women get a mammogram once a year, starting at age 40. If you have a high risk of breast cancer from a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, or have had previous breast radiation treatment, it is recommended that you begin having yearly mammograms at an earlier age (usually around age 30). However, this is something you should discuss with your healthcare professional.