Screening vs. Diagnostic Mammogram

What’s the difference between Screening and Diagnostic Mammogram?

Screening mammography is recommended every year for women, beginning at age 40. Mammography plays a central part in early detection of breast cancer because it can often detect potential problems before they can be felt.

Screening mammography is a routine exam for women who have no sign or symptoms of breast disease. Women do not need a written referral from a health care provider for this exam.

A diagnostic mammogram, on the other hand, is for patients with a personal history of breast cancer treated within the past 5 years, patients who are experiencing symptoms such as a palpable lump, nipple discharge, unusual breast pain, or skin changes, or for patients who have been asked to return for additional imaging based on their screening mammogram. During a diagnostic mammogram, the images are analyzed in real-time. Sometimes additional mammogram images are taken. Sometimes a breast ultrasound is done to look at the breast tissue in another way. Sometimes a breast biopsy will be recommended based on the exam findings.

If you report any symptoms to our staff, either at the time of scheduling or when you talk to your technologist at the time of your appointment, our staff will change the appointment to a diagnostic exam and request an updated referral form from your healthcare provider.

Where a screening mammogram can be self-referred, a diagnostic mammogram requires a referral from your healthcare provider. Additionally, the billing is different between screening and diagnostic mammograms. For more information about insurance coverage, we encourage you to contact your insurance provider.

Take a look at this article to learn more benefits to routine cancer screenings, Most US adults aren’t up to date on routine cancer screenings | KOMO (

To learn about the requirements for a mammogram, please refer to our Mammogram service page here (

Screening vs. Diagnostic Mammogram

Back to News
Close Close Warning Message

Sign In

Close Warning Message