7 Things to Know About Mammograms

A mammogram is an important step in taking care of yourself and your breasts. The American Cancer Society recommends women ages 40 and over get a mammogram every year, along with a breast exam by a doctor or nurse. Knowing what to expect may help you get through the process more smoothly. Here is what you need to know before you go:

1. What is a mammogram? A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast used to find breast changes. X-rays were first used to examine breast tissue nearly a century ago.

2. Where to get it? Find a center that specializes in mammograms. When you find a facility you like, stick with it. Having all of your mammograms at the same facility makes it easier for doctors to compare images from one year to the next.

3. When to schedule? Schedule your mammogram about a week after your menstrual period. Your breasts won’t be as tender or swollen, which means less discomfort during the x-ray.

4. What to wear? Wear a two-piece outfit. Do not apply deodorant, antiperspirant, powder, lotion or ointment on or around your chest on the day of your mammogram.

5. What to expect? The entire procedure takes about 20 minutes. The breast is compressed between two plastic plates for a few seconds while an x-ray is taken.

6. Getting the results. You should get your results within 30 days. If doctors find something suspicious, you’ll likely be contacted within a week to take new pictures or get other tests. That doesn’t mean you have cancer. A suspicious finding may be just dense breast tissue or a cyst.

7.  What to pay? Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and almost all private insurance plans now cover yearly mammograms, with no co-pay or other out of pocket costs. Medicaid also covers mammograms.