What you need to know about mammograms

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November 15, 2021
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For adult women, getting a mammogram is an important step in staying healthy. Below is a quick summary of the top things you should know about mammograms.

Why should I get a mammogram?

One in eight American women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime, and having regular mammograms can lower your risk of dying from breast cancer by 25 to 30 percent or more.


Who should get a mammogram?

It’s important to always ask questions or clarification for any tests that are recommended. Women over the age of 40 should talk with their primary care provider to determine when they should begin regular mammogram screenings and the frequency that is right for them based on their individual risk factors. If you find any lump or irregularity during a self-exam, a mammogram is warranted.


Where should I go for my mammogram?

Look for a center that specializes in mammograms, and is both accredited and certified by the Food and Drug Administration. See North Memorial Health’s mammography locations.


Do I need a referral from my doctor to schedule a mammogram?

Screening mammograms do not require a provider’s referral. However, the mammography center will need to know who your primary care provider is so they can send them the results to update your medical records.


When should I schedule a mammogram?

It’s best to schedule your mammogram about a week following your last menstrual period, when your breasts will be less tender or swollen.


How long will it take?

Mammograms usually take about 20 minutes to complete.


Are all mammograms the same?

No, there are some important differences to understand:

  • Conventional mammograms produce two-dimensional images on film.
  • Digital mammograms produce images electronically. Digital mammography provides diagnostic advantages because it allows radiologists to enhance, magnify and manipulate the image for thorough evaluation.
  • Three-dimensional (3D) mammography uses very low dose X-rays, but the radiation dose is slightly higher than that of standard mammography. In addition, the accuracy of 3D mammography has not been compared with that of 2D mammography. Researchers do not know if it is better at early detection of breast cancer.


What is 3D mammography?

3D mammography (tomosynthesis) looks at multiple layers throughout the breast so there is improved visualization of certain types of mammographic abnormalities.


Should I get a 3D mammogram?

Talk to your primary care provider about whether it’s right for you.


Are mammograms covered by insurance, Medicare and Medicaid?

Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance plans cover mammograms, with no co-pay or out-of-pocket costs. In addition, for women who are uninsured or low-income, North Memorial Health partners with the Sage Program to offer free mammograms to eligible women.

See Mammography Locations

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