ZocdocAnswersWill undergoing mammography tell me if I'm cancer free?


Will undergoing mammography tell me if I'm cancer free?

I am 49 and a breast cancer survivor. Will a mammogram tell me if the cancer comes back?


I am sorry to hear that you had breast cancer, but am happy to hear that you are a breast cancer survivor! This is definitely a good question to discuss with your breast surgeon and or breast oncologist. I am obviously not familiar with the specifics of your medical history (and oncologic treatment history), and cannot therefore give your the specific information target to you personally that you deserve. I am happy however to give you some general information about mammography. Mammography is a technique that uses low-dose X-rays to examine the human breast. It has been proven an effective tool used in the early detection of breast cancers, particularly those that are radio-opaque (show-up on X-ray) or have microcalcifications (calcium crystals are hard, like bone, and therefore show-up easily on X-ray). While mammography is routinely used as a screening exam, it is not 100% sensitive or specific. Sensitivity refers to a testing modalities ability to pick up the disease process if present. Meaning in this case that there may still be a cancer present that the X-ray doesn't pick-up. This makes sense because not all cancers are radio-opaque, or have microcalcifications, or they are just too small to be picked up. Specificity refers to how accurate a test is, meaning that if it is positive, is the disease process actually present. In this case, not every radioopaque mass, or mass with microcalcifications is a breast cancer. This is why abnormal masses seen on mammography are usually biopsied to get a tissue diagnosis. The shortcomings or mammography are part of why the current recommendations are to perform regular self exams, and have a physician perform physical exams, in addition to regular mammography. I do recommend discussing this with your breast surgeon however. Best of luck. I hope this helps.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.