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  Mammograms are an essential element in the early detection of breast cancer. A mammogram is essentially a low-dose X-ray of your breasts, which are placed between plates and spread out to get a full view of the breast tissue. A mammogram is recommended annually for women over the age of 40. It can be recommended earlier or more frequently, depending on your risk. The mammogram is effective at detecting small lumps linked with early-stage breast cancer.