Breast Cancer Screening Methods & Recommended Frequency

No one wants to get breast cancer, but the good news is that it can be caught early through screenings. If you’re unsure what screening methods are available or how often you should be screened, read for more information. Knowing what to expect can help make the screening process as easy and stress-free as possible.


Mammography is an X-ray examination of the breasts. It is a screening tool to detect early signs of breast cancer. A radiologist performs the procedure, which usually takes about 20 minutes. Mammography can be uncomfortable, but it is not usually painful. 

You may feel pressure on your breasts as they are compressed during the exam. You should expect to receive your mammogram results within a week or two. 

If anything abnormal is found, you will be contacted by the radiologist or your doctor for further testing. Mammograms are considered safe, and there is no evidence that they cause breast cancer. 

Types of Mammography

Film Mammography

This is the traditional mammogram where an X-ray film is used. The breast is compressed between two plates, and then X-rays are taken. Digital MammographyIn this type of mammogram, a digital image is captured and saved to a computer instead of film. 

This allows the radiologist to manipulate the image to better look at certain areas. It also makes it easier to share images with other doctors. Breast Tomosynthesis (Tomo)This is a newer type of mammogram that uses X-rays to create a three-dimensional image of the breast tissue. This can help to detect smaller tumors that may not be visible on a traditional mammogram. 

Digital Mammography

This is a computer-aided detection system that is used to help find small breast cancers. It works by looking at digital images of the breast and finding abnormal areas. Digital mammography can be done in two ways: full-field digital mammography (FFDM) and screen-film digital mammography (SFDM). FFDM is when the entire breast is captured in one image. SFDM is when the breast is divided into sections, and each section is captured in a separate image.

Digital Breast Tomosynthesis

This type of mammogram creates a three-dimensional image of the breast tissue. It uses X-rays to take multiple pictures of the breast from different angles. These images are then put together to create a three-dimensional image. This can help to find small tumors that may not be visible on a traditional mammogram. 

There are two types of mammograms: screening mammograms and diagnostic mammograms. Screening mammograms check for breast cancer in women with no signs or symptoms. Diagnostic mammograms check for breast cancer in women with signs or symptoms of the disease, such as a lump in their breast, pain, or a change in the size or shape of their breasts.

The Recommended Frequency for Breast Cancer Screening

When it comes to breast cancer screening, frequency is important. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that women of average risk get mammograms yearly starting at age 45. They also recommend that women aged 40-44 have the opportunity to start annual screenings if they wish to do so. 

The ACS recommends more frequent screening with MRI and mammography for women at higher risk of breast cancer. They suggest discussing your risks with your doctor to develop the right screening plan. Several factors can increase your risk for breast cancer, including: 

  • Personal history of breast cancer or certain types of non-cancerous breast lumps
  • Family history of breast or ovarian cancer


Several breast cancer screening methods are available, and the recommended frequency of screenings depends on a woman’s risk factors. Talk to your doctor about which combination of methods is right for you and how often you should be screened. 

And remember, the best way to reduce your risk of breast cancer is to live a healthy lifestyle. The most important thing you can do is be familiar with your breasts to notice any changes.

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