Mammography

Mammography is the process of using low-dose X-rays (usually around 0.7 mSv) to examine the human breast. The goal of mammography is the early detection of breast cancer, typically through detection of characteristic masses and/or microcalcifications. Mammography has been shown to reduce mortality from breast cancer. No other imaging technique has been shown to reduce risk, but breast self-examination (BSE) and physician examination are essential parts of regular breast care.nique has been shown to reduce risk, but breast self-examination (BSE) and physician examination are essential parts of regular breast care.


The goal of any screening procedure is to examine a large population of patients and find the small number most likely to have a serious condition. These patients are then referred for further, usually more invasive, testing. Thus a screening exam is not intended to be definitive: It is intended to have a high sensitivity so as to not miss any cancers. The cost of this high sensitivity is a relatively large number of results that would be regarded as suspicious in patients without disease. This is true of mammography. The patients called back for further testing from a screening session (about 7%) are sometimes referred to as “false positives”, implying an error. In fact, it is essential to call back many healthy patients for further testing to capture as many cases of cancer as possible.

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