Introduction to Mammography

Recommendations for screening mammograms have been revised throughout the years to reflect new data that have been collected on the pros and cons of screening mammograms. Mammograms can save lives, but they can also lead to false positive diagnoses and unecessary and potentially harmful treatments, such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. The following chart contains 4 key groups' recommendations for screening mammograms. Differences between the groups' recommendations may be due to differences in the methods by which each group balances the pros and cons of screening mammograms.

  When to start getting mammograms Frequency of testing for average risk individuals                

When to stop getting mammograms


US Preventative Services Task Force

Age 50 Biennially (once every other year) Age 74

American Cancer Society


Age 45 Once every year until age 55, then once every other year Not defined. Continue with mammography screenings as long as individual is in good overall health and has a life expectancy of at least 10 more years
American College of Radiology


Average risk individuals: age 40

High risk individuals: by age 30, but not before age 25

Annually Not defined. Continue with mammography screenings as long as individual is in good health
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists


Age 40 Annually Not defined.


Click on the image below to view a Mammography Documentary. Be sure to return to read the rest of our mammography information.

Mammography is useful in discovering tumors too small to be felt. The procedure involves taking an X-ray of the breast with a very low radiation dose. It has been shown that there is little risk from the exposure for women over 35 who have annual mammograms. However, for younger women who are at high risk for breast cancer due to their BRCA status, exposure to X-rays may lead to an increase in risk.5

Patients should verify that their clinic is FDA certified and specializes in mammography or processes a large number of mammograms. Visit the FDA to verify that your local facility is accredited. Most health plans, Medicare, and Medicaid cover part or all of the costs of mammography. The American Cancer Society has information about low cost mammograms available in most areas.6.

The following pages discuss:

For more information about breast cancer treatments and services visit the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.