Mammography (ma-MAH-gruh-fee) is a screening tool that uses X-rays to create images of the breast. These images, called mammograms (MAM-o-grams), are used to find early signs of breast cancer such as a dense mass or clusters of calcium (microcalcifications).

Overall, mammography is the most effective breast cancer screening tool used today. Mammography can also be used as a follow-up test when something abnormal is found on a screening mammogram or a clinical breast exam. When used as follow-up test (instead of screening), a mammogram may be called a “diagnostic mammogram.”

When should you get a mammogram?

Women at average risk should get a mammogram once a year starting at age 40.

Women at higher risk may need to get screened earlier and more frequently than recommended here. If you are at higher risk of breast cancer, talk with your health care provider about which screening options are right for you.

The following items will put you at higher risk for breast cancer:

  • mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene (or a first-degree relative with a mutation)
  • Strong family history of breast cancer, such as mother and/or sister diagnosed at age 45 or younger
  • Personal history of breast cancer, including ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
  • Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or atypical hyperplasia
  • Radiation treatment to the chest area during childhood or young adulthood
  • A mutation in the p53 or PTEN genes (or a first-degree relative with a mutation). These gene mutations can lead to Li-Fraumeni syndrome

Where to get a mammogram:

If you have insurance consult with your primary care physician and request a referral to get your mammogram if they have not already discussed it with you.

Free Mammograms:


Dial 2-1-1 to talk with a Breast Health Specialist. For English, press 1-3-2. For Spanish, press 2-3-2. Or go to


Sometimes, the reason a woman doesn’t get a mammogram is that she doesn’t have time, or can’t get to a clinic because of transportation issues. Komen funds San Diego’s only mobile mammography coach to provide state-of-the-art 3-D Tomosynthsis mammography where women work, live, pray or shop. Look on our website for a variety of free mammograms scheduled throughout each month or contact Community Health Imaging Centers at the following: 619-269-1698 or visit the CHIC Calendar


Many women ineligible for the state funded Every Woman Counts program but unable to afford diagnostic services can receive those services through our Access to Diagnostics Program. This program provides diagnostic services (i.e. diagnostic mammography, MRIs, surgical consultation, breast biopsies, ultrasounds) to low-income, uninsured or underinsured individuals. For more information please contact 619-542-4342 |

If you are OVER 40 years old or under 40 experiencing symptoms you can also get screened through…


Call EVERY WOMAN COUNTS at 1-800-511-2300 for program qualification.