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Mammograms: Important breast cancer checks

  • Starting at age 40, most women should have a mammogram every year. This will help catch breast cancer early on, when it's most curable.

    A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray picture of your breast. The exam involves compressing your breasts between two panels for a few seconds so the X-ray can get a clear image of your breast tissue. You will feel pressure.

    Your mammogram images will be taken in one of two ways:

    • analog (on film): Images are created on film. The film is developed and the radiologist (doctor of X-ray) studies the film on a special light box.
    • digital: Images are captured and sent to a computer. The radiologist studies the images on a high-resolution computer screen.

    Both ways are safe, accurate and provide reliable results.

    Although mammograms are proven to find breast cancer in early stages, about 10% of cancers do not show up on mammograms.

    Digital mammography: Is it better than regular mammograms?

    A woman getting a mammogram probably will not notice a difference between digital mammography and analog (on film) breast cancer screening.

    The main difference between a digital and film mammogram is in how images are taken and displayed. Digital pictures do not go to film that must be developed before they can be seen. Instead, they're taken by a computer and electronically sent to a screen, where a radiologist can interpret (read) them.

    Digital mammograms offer radiologists the option to magnify, brighten or darken images so that they can better see possible tumors and verify whether they could be breast cancer. However, if you have a film mammogram, you can feel confident that the radiologist will have clear, complete images to read.

    Digital mammography has been available since 1996. Early studies suggest that digital mammograms may be more effective in detecting breast cancer in women younger than age 50, women who have not gone through menopause, and women who have dense (thick) breast tissue.

    Digital mammography locations

    Although the number of digital mammography units at clinics and hospitals is growing throughout the United States, film mammograms are more widely available.

    These Allina locations offer digital mammography.

  • Breast density teaser

    Need a mammogram?

    Check with your insurance provider to see if the mammogram will be covered. Your health care provider's recommendation for services does not guarantee coverage by your insurance provider.

    Find the mammogram location that works best for you.

    Low-cost or free mammograms

    Our clinics and hospitals participate in the Minnesota Department of Health's Sage Screening Program. The effort offers free mammograms to uninsured and underinsured women.

    Visit or call 1-800-643-2584.