What is the Difference Between a Screening vs a Diagnostic Mammogram?

Jun 20, 2021

What is a Screening Mammogram?

A screening mammogram is a routine low-dose x-ray of each breast performed to detect small abnormalities before they can be felt on an exam. Screening mammography is considered preventive and is usually covered by most insurance plans. Early detection is the best prevention since 1 in 7 women will develop breast cancer over their lifetime. Screening mammography can be “considered” for a woman at average risk between ages 40-45 according to the American Cancer Society. Screening mammography is “recommended” by the American Cancer Society every year from 45-54, then every one to year years from age 55 and older. Screening is recommended to continue as long as a woman is in good health and expected to live at least ten more years. Women at higher risk of breast cancer should consult their physician regarding particular risk factors that may affect their recommended age to start screening. Women with known generic predispositions such as genetic mutations like BRCA 1 or 2, may start screening mammography by age 30. Women at higher risk may also start other imaging including breast MRI at age 25.  Some women have such a strong family history with multiple relatives’ ages that we recommend they observe this protocol 

What is a Diagnostic Mammogram?

A diagnostic mammogram is performed using low dose x-ray to evaluate a breast concern such as breast lump, discharge, pain, or to further characterize an abnormal area seen on a screening mammogram. Most diagnostic mammograms prove to be benign (noncancerous) nodules, cysts, or normal tissue. When a significant abnormality is found, it can be biopsied to determine whether it is cancer.


The Women’s Imaging Center uses the highest-rated breast imaging and comprehensive mammography and medical diagnostic imaging exams for women including 3D mammograms, screening mammograms, diagnostic mammograms, breast ultrasound, body ultrasound, MRI of breast, and body, breast biopsy, genetic counseling, and testing. We offer breast MRI and other Medical Diagnostic Imaging MRI services at our Denver/Cherry Creek location. The Women’s Imaging Center also provides most other Women’s Imaging and Mammography Services at our other Denver metro area locations including Women’s Imaging- West/Lakewood, Women’s Imaging-South/Highlands Ranch, and Women’s Imaging-North/Westminster locations, and Centennial/Smoky Hill location.  

Call 303-321-CARE (2273) to schedule an appointment or make an online appointment request at Schedule Now



Kelly McAleese
by Kelly McAleese