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Why Mammograms are Important

Breast screening helps catch cancer early when there are more treatment options and better outcomes.

BC Cancer Breast Screening is committed to ensuring the safety of patients and health care providers during screening mammography appointments. Learn more about breast screening.‎

They help find cancer when it is small, allowing more treatment options and a better chance of recovery.

It is estimated that 1 in 8 BC women will get breast cancer in their lifetime.

Screening mammograms are considered the international gold standard for detecting breast cancer early. Mammograms can usually find lumps 2 or 3 years before you or your primary care provider can feel them. Research has shown a greater than 25 per cent reduction in deaths from breast cancer among those who regularly screen.


‎While a family history of breast cancer is cause for a higher-than-average risk, the biggest risk factor for breast cancer is being a woman over 50 years of age.

80 per cent of breast cancer cases are diagnosed in women 50 years of age or older.

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Your questions


Mammograms save lives: Finding cancer early means that it is less likely to have spread and treatment can be started earlier with better outcomes. 

About 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime and 1 in 28 women is expected to die from the disease.

Mammograms are effective: Screening mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early. Mammograms can usually find lumps two or three years before you or your health care provider can feel them. 

Research has shown a greater than 25% reduction in deaths from breast cancer for people who regularly screen.

Your breast cancer risk increases with age: While people with a family history of breast cancer have a higher-than-average risk, the most significant risk factor for breast cancer is being a woman over 50 years old.

Over 80% of new breast cancers diagnosed each year in BC are in women age 50 or older.


Mammograms are not perfect: Not all breasts look the same on a mammogram – age and/or breast density can make cancers more or less difficult to see. In general, screening mammograms are less effective in younger people because they tend to have denser breast tissue.

Mammograms do not detect all cancers:  Some cancers cannot be detected on a mammogram because of the location of the cancer or the density of the breast tissue. About 25% of cancers in women ages 40-49 are not detectable by a screening mammogram, compared with about 10% in women older than 50.

Mammograms may lead to additional testing: On average, 9% of people screened through BC Cancer Breast Screening will need additional testing to look more closely at a specific area of the breast. This does not mean that a cancer was found – over 95% of people recalled for additional testing do not have cancer.

Mammograms use low doses of radiation: The benefits of regular mammograms outweigh the risks posed by the small amount of radiation you are exposed to.

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