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



Screening Mammograms and Clinical Breast Exams

For women and men who are under-insured, uninsured and do not qualify for the state funded program, Every Woman Counts, Susan G. Komen San Diego’s breast cancer screening funds are available to cover the costs of your clinical breast exam and screening mammogram. To be screened under this fund please call 619-269-1698 or visit the CHIC Calendar.

To find out if you are eligible for Every Woman Counts, please call 1-800-511-2300 for program qualification.

Mobile Mammography

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 San Diego works with San Diego’s only mobile mammography coach run by Community Health Imaging Centers of San Diego (CHIC) 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 CHIC at: 619-269-1698 or visit the CHIC Calendar

Diagnostic Mammograms and Other Diagnostic Services

When a breast screening tests reveals something abnormal, a follow-up test, known as a “diagnostic service,” is needed. Komen San Diego’s Diagnostic Fund covers the cost of diagnostic mammograms, surgical consultations, MRIs, breast biopsies, ultrasounds and ancillary services for San Diegans who don’t qualify for the state program, Every Woman Counts. Indviduals can access this fund through Komen San Diego’s grantee Health Quality Partners. Individuals are referred to Health Quality Partners by their physician with an authorization request.  For more information please contact 619-542-4342 |

For further help with accessing a free mammogram, please call Komen San Diego at 858-573-2760 or dial 2-1-1 to talk with a Breast Health Specialist. For English, press 1-3-2. For Spanish, press 2-3-2.