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Benefits and Limitations of Mammograms

It is important to be aware of the benefits and limitations of screening mammography so you can make an informed decision about whether screening is right for you.


The benefits of mammograms outweigh the risks that come from the small amount of radiation you are exposed to.

Screening mammograms are the best method we have for detecting breast cancer early and can usually find lumps up to two or three years before they can be felt.

Regular breast cancer screening can find cancer when it's small, easier to treat, and there are more treatment options.

Screening has been shown to reduce deaths from breast cancer in most age groups.


Though mammograms are the best breast cancer screening tool we have, they still aren't perfect. 

Mammograms expose the breasts to small amounts of radiation.

Not all cancers may be seen on a mammogram and cancers can develop between mammograms. Regular screening is important to allow the radiologist to look for subtle changes between visits.

Mammograms sometimes find things that will not turn out to be cancer but may cause harms such as discomfort or pain from additional imaging or anxiety.

Is having a screening mammogram right for you?

Possible Benefits

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Possible Harms

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Peace of mind when the mammogram result is normal.


Mammogram results may suggest breast cancer even though cancer is not present (false positive).


Mammograms can catch breast cancer at an earlier stage:

  • easier to treat
  • more treatment options


Mammogram may not detect breast cancer even though it is present (false negative).


Having regular mammograms reduces the deaths from breast cancers.


Some breast cancers detected by a mammogram would not have caused problems for the patient during their lifetime (over diagnosis).



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Nova Scotia Breast Screening Program
603L-7001 Mumford Road
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3L 2H8


Book your screening mammogram by calling:


Monday - Friday, 8:00am - 5:00pm