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Are Mammograms Safe?
January 2004

Q. I worry about the safety of mammograms. I can't help but wonder if the extreme pressure couldn't cause a tumor to spread or milk ducts to rupture? Can that much pressure really be safe?

A. Mammograms have become a very useful test in the diagnosis and detection of breast cancer. There are areas of disagreement among doctors as to the exact guidelines to follow. In general, a first mammogram is done at age 40, advised to repeat every 2 years, and yearly after age 50. A strong family history of breast cancer or additional risk factors may lead to starting mammograms at an earlier age.

The test itself does require moderate pressure to be applied to the breast to facilitate better quality of the picture obtained. This can indeed be uncomfortable but a better technique does not currently exist. The technique involved has not been shown to cause problems in the breast however.



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