Q&A: Does Normal Mean No Cancer?
If I have a negative (normal) mammogram, does that mean I definitely don’t have breast cancer?
- Mammography is an imperfect test. A “normal mammogram” report does not mean that a woman does not have breast cancer. Overall, mammograms will pick up 80-90% of cancers. That’s pretty good, but there are still 10-20% of cancers that will not be seen, and will present as an “interval cancer” with a palpable lump.
The cancer detection rate plummets in women with dense breasts to only 40-50% of cancers picked up on a mammogram. This is why it is so important to know if your breasts are dense. Knowing the imperfection of mammography also underscores the importance of a yearly physical breast examination by your doctor, and the importance of doing your own monthly breast self-exams. Women find many cancers on their own. If you think something is wrong, trust yourself. And seek a second opinion if your doctor dismisses your concern.