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Mammograms for Breast Cancer Screening

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A Center of Excellence

UC San Diego Health is recognized as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology (ACR), a designation earned by fewer than 6 percent of all breast imaging centers in California. 

Screening Mammograms

UC San Diego Health recommends that all women 40 and older, as well as women at high-risk of breast cancer due to family history or other factors, get a screening mammogram yearly. Though not perfect, screening mammograms are the best tool available for detecting cancer early when it is most curable, and the majority of breast cancers are detected during a screening mammogram before there are any symptoms of disease. Early diagnosis is the best defense against cancer.

UC San Diego Health offers traditional 2D mammography and 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, making it easier to see all around and between breast tissue, with less overlapping of imaged breast tissue. These additional views make it easier to differentiate normal superimposed breast tissue from cancer. Tomosynthesis decreases patient callback rates for additional testing.

Diagnostic Mammograms

If your screening mammogram shows an irregularity that warrants further imaging, or if you have other breast health concerns, you may be referred for a

diagnostic mammogram, which provides a more detailed X-ray of the breast. 

Diagnostic mammograms may also be used to investigate:

  • Breast pain
  • Nipple discharge
  • Skin thickening
  • A lump
  • Changes in breast size or shape

If you have noticed any of these signs, you should contact your primary care physician to ensure you get appropriate follow-up care.

We also offer diagnostic mammograms for men who have noticed asymmetry of breast tissue or have found a lump. 

For both women and men, the majority of conditions and concerns can be resolved with a diagnostic mammogram.

Preparing for Your Mammogram

It Takes Wisdom

We are 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. Learn more and register to participate at

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On day of your mammogram, it's important that you do not wear deodorant, lotion or powder as these personal care products may contain aluminum, which interferes with imaging. If you are breastfeeding, please let your scheduler know.

Please bring all your previous mammograms to your appointment, or mail them to us ahead of time. We can also obtain your records from another facility for you. Please ask our office for the necessary forms. Your care may be delayed if you don't bring your comparison studies. A complete history of your breast health is important information that can help us interpret changes in your breast tissue.

After Your Mammogram: A Call Back Does Not Mean Cancer

The majority of women have normal mammogram screenings. In some circumstances, patients are asked to return for additional mammogram views or ultrasound. This does not mean that you have cancer or will require a biopsy, only that additional imaging is advisable. Our schedulers will call you to arrange an appointment for a diagnostic mammogram or ultrasound at the earliest opportunity.

If you need a biopsy or follow-up surgical consult, you will be referred to the Comprehensive Breast Health Center.

After Your Mammogram: Breast Density Notification

By state law, all patients receiving a mammogram must be notified if they have dense breast tissue. We have always reported breast density to your doctor, but are now mandated by the state to inform you as well. Dense breast tissue is, however, normal. About 40 percent of all women undergoing screening mammography are classified as having either "heterogeneously dense" or "extremely dense" breast tissue. We encourage you to talk to your primary care provider about any further questions you may have. 

Appointments & Referrals



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Athena Breast Health Network is a partnership between all five University of California medical centers, dedicated to saving lives by transforming how breast cancer screening, prevention and treatment is delivered.

Better breast health begins with completing Athena's questionnaire prior to your annual screening mammogram. By telling us your personal story, we can provide a personal roadmap to guide your breast cancer prevention, screening or treatment plan.