How safe are mammograms?

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Jennifer Rollenhagen, MD
Diagnostic Radiology
Mammograms are performed with very low doses of radiation. In this video, radiologist Jennifer Rollenhagen, MD, of Mercy Health, describes how the benefits of finding breast cancer in a screening outweigh the risk of low-dose radiation.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.
Michael Paciorek, MD
Diagnostic Radiology
Women often have concerns about radiation exposure from breast cancer screenings. In this video, Michael Paciorek, MD, of Mercy Health, explains that advances in technology make it possible to learn a lot while using very little radiation.


Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.
Stacy Contreras
Body Imaging
Mammograms are safe, says Stacy Contreras, director at Good Samaritan Hospital’s Breast Care Center. In this video, she discusses radiation exposure and why it shouldn't present an obstacle to getting a mammogram.
In general, yes, mammograms are safe. The major concern associated with mammograms would be that of exposure to radiation. There has been no evidence to show that there is any increased risk from radiation in women who undergo routine mammograms after the age of 40. There is, however, a population of women who are at an increased risk of breast cancer due to genetic mutations, BRCA1 + BRCA2. These women are also at an increased risk of radiation-induced breast cancer. In this specific population it is important to discuss the risks vs the benefits of mammography to detect early onset breast cancer. In this scenario the use of mammography should be patient-specific and centered upon the patient's ultimate goals and wishes in regard to her breast health.
Fear about radiation from mammograms is common among women. While it is true that all x-rays carry a dose of radiation, keep in mind that improvements in technology over the past 20 years have decreased that dose substantially. In fact, today's mammograms deliver very little radiation.

Studies have indicated that the carcinogenic, or cancer-causing, potential of radiation decreases as women age. After the age of 40, there is little evidence of increased risk of developing breast cancer due to exposure to low levels of radiation. The average mammography study (two images per breast) performed on modern, properly-maintained equipment results in a dose of less than 0.3 rad.

Statistically speaking, this dose suggests a risk of one death due to breast cancer per million women screened. The natural incidence of breast cancer is 1,000 cases per million women at age 50 (about 1 in 10); 1 in 1,000 women will die of breast cancer. These statistics show that the chance of a mammogram saving your life (by detecting breast cancer) is much greater than the chance of it harming you.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.