The benefits and limits of a mammogram vary. They’re based on factors such as age and personal risk. Experts have different advice for who should have mammograms.
The U.S. Preventive Task Force (USPSTF) advises screening every 2 years for women age 50 to 74, with the choice to start getting mammograms every 2 years starting at age 40.
The American Cancer Society advises yearly screening for all women ages 45 to 54, then a choice of screening every 2 years or every 1 year for women age 55 and older. Women ages 40 to 45 have the option to start screening.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises that starting at age 40, women should have the option of starting to get mammograms every 1 or 2 years. All women should start at age 50. Mammograms every 1 or 2 years should be done until age 75. At that time a woman should talk to her doctor about whether to continue screening.
All women should talk with their doctor about their personal risk factors before making a decision about when to start and how often to get a mammogram.
A mammogram detects tumors and calcium deposits in the breast. Most calcium deposits are not cancer. But a cluster of very tiny specks of calcium (microcalcifications) can be an early sign of breast cancer. If your mammogram shows anything abnormal, you may need more tests.
A mammogram is the best way to find breast cancer early. But it may not always detect cancer. And in some cases, it may find an abnormality that turns out not to be cancer. This is called a false positive.