Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School


What It's Used For

Mammography is used as a screening test for breast cancer. No screening strategy finds every breast cancer. You have a better chance of detecting breast cancer early if you also examine your own breasts every month and see a doctor once a year for a professional breast examination.

Mammography also is used to help clarify whether a suspicious breast lump is a cyst or a tumor and whether a tumor is more likely to be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). However, a mammogram is not always definite. A lump that you or your doctor can feel may be cancer even if a mammogram indicates that it is not. Your doctor should check these lumps periodically or may do a biopsy, in which a small piece of tissue is removed to be examined in a laboratory.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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