Frequently Asked Questions: Mammograms
What are the benefits of screening mammography?
Today's high-quality screening mammogram is the most effective tool available to detect
breast cancer before lumps can be felt or symptoms appear. Early detection of breast
cancer not only helps provide a woman with more choices. It also increases her chances
of having the best possible outcome.
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 and the risks related to your particular situation. Special care is
taken to make sure that the lowest possible amount of radiation is used when you have
What should a woman expect when having a mammogram?
A woman should not use deodorant, powder, or lotions and should wear 2-piece clothing
on the day of her mammogram. A specially trained radiology technologist will perform
the X-ray. The radiology technologist will ask the woman to undress, put on a gown,
and stand next to the X-ray machine. Two flat surfaces, or plates, are slowly squeezed
together and compress each breast for a few seconds. This compression may be somewhat
painful. But it is necessary to produce the best pictures using the lowest amount
of radiation possible.
Are mammograms painful?
Some women find the pressure of the plates on their 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 experience 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 starting after August 1,
2012. However, health plans that were in place before the Act was passed (called grandfathered
plans) do not 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.
For low income women, mammograms are covered through the National Breast and Cervical
Cancer Early Detection Program. For more information, contact your state Department