A mammogram is an imaging examination of the breast performed to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages, often before any signs or symptoms of the disease are present. This exam is recommended annually for women over the age of 40. In addition to age, patients who have a personal or family history of breast cancer, abnormal breast changes or long-term use of hormone therapy may also be at an increased risk of developing breast cancer and should be screened on a regular basis.
Mammograms may be performed for screening or diagnostic purposes. Screenings involve producing images of both breasts in order to detect any tumors that cannot yet be felt under the skin. They can also detect calcium deposits that may indicate breast cancer. Diagnostic mammograms are performed after a lump or other sign of breast cancer has been detected, or after abnormalities were present during a screening mammogram. This procedure targets a specific area of the breast and takes more detailed images from many different angles.