A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast to check for breast cancer. Mammograms can help find breast cancer early, before it spreads to other parts of the body — and when it may be easier to treat. Mammograms are a form of cancer prevention and should be completed routinely. Together, you and your doctor can decide what’s best for you.
The recommendations are:
- If you’re 40 or older and have an average risk of breast cancer, yearly screening mammograms should be part of your healthcare.
- If your breast cancer risk is higher than average, talk to your doctor about a more aggressive breast cancer screening plan that makes the most sense for your particular situation. Your plan may include breast MRI or ultrasound in addition to mammograms.
Like all medical tests, mammograms have benefits and risks. These benefits and risks depend on your age and your personal risk of breast cancer. Use the questions below to start a conversation with your doctor about mammograms.
What about cost?
Insurance plans must cover mammograms for women aged 50 and over — and some younger women at higher risk for breast cancer. That means you may be able to get mammograms at no cost to you. Talk to your insurance company to find out more. In Georgia, there are many resources for those needing financial assistance to complete your screenings, and CHW offers advanced diagnostic breast cancer screenings.
What do I ask the doctor?
When you visit the doctor, it helps to have questions written down ahead of time. You may also want to ask a family member or close friend to go with you to take notes. Remember, this is your healthcare, and your doctor is part of your team. If you feel that your current doctor is not welcoming to your questions or your needs, it might be the right time to consider a different doctor. Remember to advocate for yourself and insist on what you feel is correct for you when it comes to preventative screenings.
- Do I have any risk factors that increase my chances of getting breast cancer?
- When should I start getting regular mammograms?
- How often should I get mammograms?
- What will happen when I go to get mammograms?
- How long will it take to get the results of my mammograms?
- If I don’t hear back about the results of my mammograms, does that mean everything’s okay?
- What are the benefits and risks of getting mammograms? What does this mean for me?
- Is there anything I can do to lower my risk of breast cancer?
After you receive your results, if the doctor does find any abnormalities, you can ask:
- What are the next steps at diagnosing this?
- What concerns you about my mammogram?
- Where is the abnormality located?
- Is just one breast affected, or both?
- Are there any abnormalities in my lymph node area?
When you have received your diagnosis:
- What does my treatment plan look like?
- How aggressive is this cancer?
- How does this diagnosis affect the likelihood that my children will develop breast cancer?
- What type of breast cancer is this?
- Am I at high risk for this cancer to spread? Has this cancer spread?
In addition, do not be afraid to ask your doctor to explain things more simply. If the doctor is speaking over your head with medical terminology, do not feel embarrassed about asking him or her to explain in simpler words. This is your healthcare, and you need to understand what is going on regarding your health. Ask him or her to draw a picture if you are a visual learner and ask your doctor to show you your mammogram images.