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Diagnosis and Treatment

Dear Iris: Are Yearly Mammograms Necessary for Me?

Dear Iris,

My breast cancer has been in remission for a year now. I had a mastectomy. Kind of feel silly asking this question… But do I still need to have yearly mammograms?


Dear J,

Your question is not silly at all—it's actually quite common and important. For most individuals, a yearly mammogram is the standard recommendation, along with monthly self-exams. After a cancer diagnosis or treatment, however, this can change. Each person is unique, so I always recommend asking your oncologist or breast surgeon directly what they recommend for your future screening and follow up.   

After a mastectomy, mammograms are usually not needed. This is because the mastectomy removes most of the breast tissue. In areas where small amounts of breast tissue may remain (such as near the skin, chest wall, or underarm) a self-exam or physical exam can typically detect any new or returning lumps. Breast MRI or ultrasounds may also not be necessary for the same reasons. 

There are some instances where a mammogram may still be recommended. One such instance would be if you had a single-sided mastectomy. In this case, the opposite breast would still need to have a mammogram. Another reason for providers to recommend continuing mammograms (or MRI) is if the mastectomy was partial, leaving some breast tissue, or if you are at high risk due to family history or genetic test results. 

We do recommend (regardless of other imaging) that you perform monthly self-exams, as well as yearly physical exams with either your breast surgeon or your primary care doctor. If you notice areas of scar tissue that feel like a 'lump,' it's important to discuss these changes with your provider. 

Missed last week? Dear Iris: Cancer Free. Now What?

Lindsay Boudinot, RN, BSN, OCN

Senior Oncology Nurse

Iris Oncology

Lindsay Boudinot began her career as an emergency room nurse working in a level one trauma center in St. Louis, later transitioning into a breast cancer nurse navigator. In this role, she was able to work with patients from diagnosis, through treatment and into survivorship. Lindsay’s passion is empowering patients with knowledge and understanding of their cancer, treatment, resources, and side effect management techniques so that they can live their best lives possible despite difficult circumstances.

This article meets Iris standards for medical accuracy. It has been fact-checked by the Iris Clinical Editorial Board, our team of oncology experts who ensure that the content is evidence based and up to date. The Iris Clinical Editorial Board includes board-certified oncologists and pharmacists, psychologists, advanced practice providers, licensed clinical social workers, oncology-certified nurses, and dietitians.