Ask the Doctor About Mammography

Who should get mammography? 

We currently recommend all women over 40 get yearly screening mammograms. While mammography is not perfect, it currently is the best test we have to detect breast cancer early. A program of yearly screening mammography has been shown in multiple studies to decrease the death rate from breast cancer. 

What is the difference between screening and diagnostic mammography? 

Screening mammograms are for women who have no current breast problems. Diagnostic mammograms are for women who have lumps in their breasts or signs and symptoms of a breast problem. Diagnostic mammograms take longer and involve more X-ray images of the breast. The mammogram is reviewed immediately by the radiologist to determine if there are any breast problems. At Missouri Baptist, we currently use 3D breast imaging or tomosynthesis for diagnostic mammography. This is the most advanced mammogram technology available. 

What is a high-risk screening program? 

Women with a strong family history, certain precancerous breast lesions, such as atypical ductal hyperplasia, or who are carriers of the breast cancer gene, are evaluated to determine if they would benefit from a higher level of screening. Computerized models are used to estimate their lifetime risk of getting breast cancer. A program of high-risk screening is then tailored to fit their needs. This may include mammograms alternating with breast MRIs or ultrasounds. Women also are counseled in regards to the prevention of breast cancer. 

Does mammography cause any risks? 

Mammograms require very low doses of radiation. The risk of harm from radiation from mammography is extremely low. False positives occur when the radiologist thinks there may be a breast cancer, but none is found. This may lead to further imaging or biopsies. We find the benefits of a screening mammogram program outweigh these risks. 

G. Paul Yazdi, MD, is surgical director of Missouri Baptist’s Breast HealthCare Center and a member of BJC Medical Group. He is board-certified in general surgery. He earned his medical degree from the University of Missouri, Kansas City School of Medicine and completed his residency, internship and fellowship in general surgery at University of Missouri Hospital, Columbia, and a fellowship in surgical oncology at Ellis Fischel Cancer Center. 

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