Who Should Get a Mammogram?

The Screening Mammography Program (SMP) provides free screening mammograms for eligible women in British Columbia.


If you are age 40 to 74 with a first degree relative (mother, daughter, sister) with breast cancer:

It is recommended that you get a mammogram every year.

Women with a family history of breast cancer are almost two times more likely to develop breast cancer. A doctor’s referral is not needed.


If you are age 40 to 49 without a family history of breast cancer:


You are encouraged to talk to your doctor about the benefits and limitations of mammography.

If screening mammography is chosen, it is available every two years. A doctor’s referral is not needed but is recommended.


If you are age 50 to 74 without a family history of breast cancer:

It is recommended that you get a mammogram every two years.

For women in this age group, the benefits of screening mammograms clearly outweigh the limitations. Book your appointment today. A doctor’s referral is not needed.


If you are age 75+:


You are encouraged to talk to your doctor about the benefits and limitations of mammography.

If screening mammography is chosen, it is available every two to three years. A doctor’s referral is not needed but is recommended.


If you are younger than age 40:


Screening mammograms are not recommended unless you have a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, prior chest wall radiation or strong family history of breast cancer. A doctor’s referral is needed for every screen.


Women are not eligible for a screening mammogram if they:
  • Have breast enhancements like implants or injections (see your doctor to arrange a mammogram).
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding (you can use SMP 3 months after completely finishing breastfeeding; see your doctor immediately if you experience any new problems).
  • Have a previous history of breast cancer.
  • Have any new breast complaints such as a lump or nipple discharge (see your doctor immediately if you experience any new problems).
  • Have had a mammogram on both breasts in the last 12 months (you must wait at least one year before having another screening mammogram).

  • Can I participate in SMP if I have breast implants?
    Mammograms are available to women with breast implants. The difference is that a woman with implants cannot participate in the Screening Mammography Program (SMP) but instead will have a diagnostic mammogram which requires a doctor’s referral. A diagnostic mammogram allows for the extra time and techniques needed to ensure that the entire breast tissue is visible. Please speak to your doctor for more information.

    What happens if I notice a lump in my breast?
    If you notice any new changes in your breast such as a lump or nipple discharge, see your doctor immediately. Your doctor will help you determine if further testing is required.

    If your doctor decides that you need testing, you will be booked for an appointment at a diagnostic imaging office and you will be seen very quickly. This process is different than regular breast screening, which is done with women who have no breast concerns or symptoms.

    How can I find out more about the benefits and limitations of screening mammography?
    To learn more about the benefits and limitations of screening mammography, click here. To learn more about your likelihood of screening outcomes, please visit the Screening Mammography Decision Aid.