The Mammo Minute: How Much Radiation is in a Mammogram?

The Mammo Minute is a continuing series featuring Dr. Arthy Saravanan, chief of the breast imaging section at ARA. In each episode, she will share important information about mammograms, breast health, and cancer prevention.

Welcome to the “Mammo Minute.” My name is Dr. Arthy Saravanan, and I’m the chief of the breast imaging section at Austin Radiological Association. Today’s topic is going to be “How much radiation is in a mammogram?”

As radiologists, we’re very concerned about this topic, and we go by the motto of the benefits of an examination should far outweigh the risks. Now, low-dose mammography exposes you to a small amount of radiation. However, we believe that the benefits of early detection and treatment of breast cancer far outweigh the risks of this very small dose of radiation. Just for perspective, just being in the environment, you are exposed to a small amount of radiation that gets filtered in from outer space. This is what’s called background radiation. When you get a mammogram, you’re exposed to approximately 0.4 millisieverts of radiation. That’s the measure of radiation dose that we use. For perspective, this is about three months of radiation exposure from the background. So all in all, we do believe that the benefits of mammography far outweigh the risks and this very small dose of radiation that you do get.

So go ahead and schedule your mammogram starting at the age of 40 and yearly thereafter.

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