What are the risks of undergoing a Mammography?

Updated at: Jan 22, 2013
What are the risks of undergoing a Mammography?

What are the risks of undergoing a Mammography?: Mammography may be helpful in knowing if you have breast cancer or not, but it carries several risks. Learn about them, here.

Dr Poonam Sachdev
Women's HealthWritten by: Dr Poonam SachdevPublished at: Oct 04, 2012

Mammography is a specific type of X-ray study done to detect breast diseases especially cancer at an early stage. There is a lot of concern regarding exposure to radiations during mammography. However, the screening equipment used currently for mammography emits an extremely low dose of radiation and the chances that a cancer will develop due to this radiation exposure is extremely small. The radiation exposure due to mammogram is lower than the dose of cosmic radiation you are exposed to during an intercontinental flight or a skier on a mountain over 3,000 meters. Screening mammograms done with low dose exposure once a year, beginning after age 40—50 years is absolutely safe even if you have a personal or family history of cancer of the breast or other organs, regardless of their age.

[Read: When to Undergo Mammography]

Some of the risks associated with mammography include:

  • Risk of cancer: There is a remote risk of cancer from excessive exposure to radiation. In fact experts consider that the benefits of mammogram far outweigh the small risk of cancer associated with mammography. Several studies have shown that the risk of deaths from breast cancer in the age group 50 to 64 is reduced by 40 per cent in women who go for screening mammograms for breast cancer.


[Read: Purpose of Mammography]


  • False Positive Mammogram: There is a slight risk that the result of mammogram may be false positive. About 5—15 per cent of women after a screening mammogram may require some other tests such as an additional mammograms or ultrasound. And the additional test result is mostly normal. If the second test shows an abnormal finding, your doctor will recommend a follow-up or biopsy. The biopsy result will confirm if there are any changes of malignancy. Studies indicate that a woman who undergoes yearly screening mammograms between ages 40 and 49 has about a 30 per cent chance of having a false-positive mammogram.
  • Pregnancy: Premenopausal women before going for the mammogram should always inform their physician or the X-ray technologist if they suspect or are pregnant due to potential radiation exposure of the fetus.


[Read: What is Mammography]


  • Breast Implant: If you have a breast implant there is a rare possibility that the pressure applied during mammography may displace or break the implant. If this occurs, you will need a surgical operation to remove the implant.
  • False-negative Mammogram: There is a rare possibility that the mammogram may appear normal even though you have breast cancer. The risk of having a false negative report is more common in younger women than in older women.

Mammography is a safe and valuable investigation for early diagnosis of breast cancer. Do not avoid having mammography considering the rare risk of cancer or other risks of mammography.


Read more articles on Mammography.



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