Frequently Asked Questions: Mammograms

Frequently Asked Questions: Mammograms

Technician helping woman during mammogram

What are the benefits of screening mammography?

Today’s high-quality screening
mammogram is the best tool available to detect breast cancer before lumps can be felt
or
symptoms appear. You have a better chance of surviving breast cancer if your doctor
finds and treats it early, while it’s small and hasn’t spread. Screening doesn’t
guarantee that you won’t get cancer or die from it, especially if it’s found after
it
has spread. But regular screening may help find the cancer earlier.

Is there a risk of radiation exposure from having regular mammograms?

You may want to ask your healthcare provider about the amount of radiation used during
the procedure. Ask about the risks related to your particular case. Special care is
taken to make sure that the lowest possible amount of radiation is used when you have
a mammogram.

What should a woman expect when having a mammogram?

Don’t use deodorant, powder, or
lotions on the day of your mammogram. Wear 2-piece clothing. A specially trained
radiology technologist will do the X-ray. The technologist will ask you to undress,
put
on a gown, and stand next to the X-ray machine. Two flat surfaces (plates) are slowly
squeezed together. They compress each breast for a few seconds. This compression may
be
somewhat painful. But it’s needed to make the best pictures using the lowest amount
of
radiation possible.

Are mammograms painful?

You may find the pressure of the
plates on the breasts to be uncomfortable or even painful. Timing your mammogram when
your breasts are not tender is important. In premenopausal women, this is usually
1 week
after your menstrual period. If you do have discomfort or pain, ask the technologist to
reposition you to try to make it as painless as possible. Remember that each X-ray
takes
just a few moments and could save your life.

Who pays for mammography?

The Affordable Care Act dictates
that mammograms for breast cancer screening be given without a co-pay or deductible
beginning with plan years that started after Aug. 1, 2012. But health plans that
were
in place before the act was passed (grandfathered plans) don’t have to cooperate.
Those
plans are covered by various state and federal laws. Medicare covers annual mammography
screenings for women ages 40 and older. Most states now require that health insurance
policies offer mammography screening reimbursement. Many mammography facilities also
offer special programs and lower fees during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
in
October. Because of ongoing attempts to change the ACA, check with your health insurance
provider before setting up an appointment.

For low-income women, mammograms are covered through the National Breast and Cervical
Cancer Early Detection Program. For more information, contact your state department
of health.