Six Mammogram Myths

Published Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Six Mammogram Myths

Six Mammogram Myths

Caitlund Davidson, Prevention and Screening Clinical Services

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a great time to provide breast cancer screening knowledge and break down some of the myths about mammograms. To help us debunk some mammogram myths, we talked to Michelle Opaski, a medical radiation technologist (MRT) with the Screen for Life Coach at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.


Myth: If you have no symptoms, you don’t need a mammogram.

Fact: A mammogram is the best screening test for the majority of people. It is an x-ray picture of the breast and it can detect breast cancer before any signs or symptoms appear. 


Myth: Mammograms are painful.

Fact: Some people do find that they may be sensitive to the compression. Some people may experience discomfort for a few seconds while the breast is being compressed, but the pressure does not cause harm. Most MRT’s like to keep open communication during your appointment so don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel uncomfortable or to ask questions at any time.


Myth: Mammograms cause cancer.

Fact: Mammograms are considered safe and use a low dose of radiation. Mammography units have a special detector that ensure we only use the amount of radiation necessary to create images. The risk of harm from this small amount of radiation is exceptionally low, and the benefits of detecting a breast cancer early outweigh the risk.


Myth: A referral is needed to have a mammogram.

Fact: In Ontario, you do not need a referral if you meet the eligibility criteria for the Ontario Breast Screening Program. If you are between 50 and 74 years of age and at average risk for breast cancer, you can call and book an appointment at any Ontario Breast Screening Program site – this includes the Screen for Life Coach.  You can have a mammogram even if you currently do not have a primary care provider (family doctor or nurse practitioner).


Myth: Getting a mammogram on the Screen for Life Coach isn’t the same as getting a mammogram at a hospital.

Fact: The only difference is the environment! On the Coach, the mammography unit is the same as the units at hospitals and clinics. You can be assured that you will receive a high quality mammogram. The best part is that the Screen for Life Coach travels throughout Northwestern Ontario. It may visit a community closer to you than the other screening sites in Northwestern Ontario. This will save you from having to travel to too far for your appointment.


Myth: All breast cancers can be detected on a mammogram.

Fact: No screening test is perfect, and mammograms are no exception. Many factors, such as breast density, can influence the resulting image making detection of possible breast cancers more difficult. However, mammograms are the best test health care providers have to find breast cancer early.


To learn more about breast screening in Northwestern Ontario, visit To participate in our Breast Cancer Awareness Month activities, visit our social media pages @ScreenforLifeCoachNorthwest.


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