What is a screening mammogram and how common are abnormalities?

Laurie R. Margolies, MD
Diagnostic Radiology

A screening mammogram is generally a two view exam of each breast performed in women over the age of 40 who have no signs or symptoms of breast disease. It is appropriate for women who do NOT have lumps or nipple discharge or any other change in their breasts.

During a screening mammogram, the breast is compressed in two different positions: from top to bottom and from side to side. Compression is needed to get as clear a picture as possible and to decrease the radiation dose.

There are analog mammograms, digital mammograms and now even 3D mammograms. All can be used for screening.

5 - 12% of all women who have a screening mammogram are asked to return for further evaluation of a finding. Most of these potential abnormalities are evaluated by special mammogram views and/or ultrasound and many are shown to be benign. 

A small percentage of women must, however, go on to a breast biopsy. Even then, the majority of breast biopsies done in the United States turn out to be benign.


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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.