And the earlier a problem is detected, the greater the chance of successfully treating it.
Mammograms are getting better. They're going hi-tech. New technology captures the X-ray image digitally, rather than on a piece of film. That means it can be seen right away, and manipulated (as you would any other digital picture) for better diagnosis.
Dr. Connie Lehman with the Seattle's Cancer Care Alliance says for some women digital mammograms have another benefit - they are more accurate.
"And those are women for whom we've always been challenged with film-screened mammography," she explains. "Women who are younger, women with dense breast tissue, and women before they've gone through menopause."
This new digital equipment is not in widespread use yet, although a number of places in this area have already made the switch.
"If they go to a center that advertises it's digital, they may not be fully digital," Dr. Lehman cautions. "They may be just 10% digital or 25% percent digital and that's important information to know."
If you want a digital mammogram, you need check with the facility to find out if they have the right equipment and that they will be using it on you.
By the way, digital mammograms do cost more, but most insurance companies will cover them.
For More Information:
National Cancer Institute: Digital vs. film mammography -- www.cancer.gov
FDA: FAQs about digital mammography -- www.fda.gov
American Cancer Society: Digital mammograms outperform standard ones in some women -- www.cancer.org