Early diagnosis is the best defense against breast cancer.

If you feel something in your breast, please make an appointment. Most breast cancer is discovered through routine screening mammograms.

Nationally Recognized Breast Imaging

Look to us for comprehensive breast imaging because we are recognized as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology (ACR). This designation recognizes our skill in using screening, diagnostic and interventional radiology techniques to improve breast care. Fewer than 6 percent of all breast imaging centers in California have earned this recognition.

Advanced 3D Mammography

UC San Diego Health offers digital breast tomosynthesis, also known as 3D mammography, for screening and diagnostic purposes. With breast tomosynthesis, images of the whole breast are taken in slices at different angles. This makes it easier to see all around and between breast tissue, with less overlapping of imaged breast tissue. Advanced 3D imaging improves our ability to detect cancer without follow-up imaging.

Screening Mammograms

UC San Diego Health recommends that all women 40 and older, as well as women at high risk of breast cancer, get routine screening mammograms. Though not perfect, mammograms are the best tool we have for detecting cancer early.

At What Age and How Often Should You Get a Mammogram?

To protect you from a late diagnosis of breast cancer, we follow the following guidelines:

Women in their 20s and 30s: Regular breast exams by a physician

Women age 40 and above: Annual mammogram and clinical breast exam. Between ages 40 and 45, your recommendations may be different depending on your risk factors and family history. Talk to your health care provider. 

All women: Know how your breasts normally look and feel, and report any changes promptly to your health care provider.

Women at higher risk: Some women—because of family history, a genetic tendency, or other factors—should receive more frequent screenings, screenings starting at an earlier age, or different kinds of tests. Talk with your doctor to find out if you fall into that category. We offer genetic testing through our Family Cancer Genetics Program.

Diagnostic Mammograms

If your screening mammogram shows an area of concern, your doctor may recommend a more detailed X-ray of your breast. This is called a diagnostic mammogram.

Diagnostic mammography is used to investigate:

  • Breast pain
  • Nipple discharge
  • Skin thickening
  • A lump
  • Changes in breast size or shape
  • Asymmetry of breast tissue in men

Make an appointment with your primary care physician if you have any of these signs or symptoms so you get the appropriate follow-up care.

After Your Mammogram

A Call Back Does Not Mean Cancer

Most women have normal mammograms. In some cases, you may be asked to return for follow-up imaging. This does not mean that you have cancer, only that additional imaging is advised. Our schedulers will call you to arrange an appointment for a diagnostic mammogram or ultrasound at the earliest opportunity.

Breast Density Notification

By state law, you must be notified if your mammogram shows you have dense breast tissue. Dense breast tissue is normal. About 40 percent of all women undergoing screening mammography have dense breast tissue.

It Takes Wisdom

UC San Diego Health is working to end the confusion around breast cancer screening recommendations by comparing two safe and accepted screening recommendations: mammography and personalized screening with genetic testing.

Join the Wisdom Study