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Get Tested for Breast Cancer

Content last updated on:
December 01, 2014

The Basics

Mammograms can help find breast cancer early. Many women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early.

Women ages 40 to 49:

  • Talk with your doctor about when to start getting mammograms and how often you need them.

Women ages 50 to 74:

  • Get mammograms every 2 years. Talk with your doctor to decide if you need them more often.

What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. Mammograms use a very low level of x-rays, which are a type of radiation. A mammogram is very safe.

When you get mammograms, the nurse will place your breasts, one at a time, between 2 plastic plates and take pictures of them. Mammograms can be uncomfortable for some women, but they don’t hurt.

It takes about 20 minutes to get mammograms.

What if the doctor finds something wrong with my breast?
Mammograms let the doctor or nurse look for small lumps inside your breast. If a lump is found, you will need other tests to find out if it’s cancer.

The doctor or nurse may take a small bit of tissue from the lump for testing. This is called a biopsy (“BY-op-see”).

What is breast cancer?
Abnormal (unusual) cells in the breast can turn into cancer. Breast cancer can spread to other parts of the body.

About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer. After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common kind of cancer in women. The good news is that many women survive breast cancer when it’s found and treated early.

Talk with your doctor or nurse if you notice any of these changes:

  • A lump in the breast
  • A change in size, shape, or feel of the breast
  • Fluid (called discharge) coming out of a nipple

To learn more about breast cancer:

Take Action!

Take Action!

Talk with your doctor about when and how often to get mammograms.

Ask the doctor about your breast cancer risk. 

Together, you and your doctor can decide what’s best for you.

What about cost?
The Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, covers mammograms for women over age 40. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get mammograms at no cost to you.

Check with your insurance company to find out what’s included in your plan. For information about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.

If you don’t have private insurance, you can still get mammograms.

Get support.
Use these tips to get support when you get mammograms.

  • Ask other women who have had mammograms about what to expect.
  • When you go to get mammograms, ask a family member or friend to go with you.

Make sure to ask when you will get your mammogram results. When you get the results, ask the doctor or nurse to explain what the results mean.

Get active.
Getting active increases your chances of living longer. Physical activity may help prevent breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and heart disease.

Get your well-woman visit.
Get a well-woman visit every year. Use this visit to talk with your doctor or nurse about important screenings and services to help you stay healthy.

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