Getting a mammogram is a simple test that can find breast cancer early when it's smaller, easier to treat and chances of survival are higher.
What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early when it is easier to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms. Having regular mammograms can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. Mammograms do not cause breast cancer.
Why should you get a mammogram?
Regular mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early. Sometimes it can be up to three years before you can feel a lump. When breast cancer is found early and treated early, many women go on to live long and healthy lives.
What can mammograms show?
The provider will look at your x-rays for changes in the breast that do not look normal and for differences in each breast. If you have had a mammogram before, your most recent mammogram will be compared with those you've had in the past to check for any changes or lumps. Sometimes health care providers can tell by the size, shape and edges of a lump if it is cancer.
How often should you get a mammogram?*
Women who are 50 years to 74 years of age should get a mammogram every two years. Women who have had breast cancer or other breast problems, or have a family history of breast cancer, might need to start getting mammograms before age 50. They may also need to get them more often. Talk to your health care provider about when to start and how often you should have a mammogram.
Are you worried or afraid to get a mammogram?
Take these simple steps to make the process less painful.
- Pick the date for your mammogram one to two weeks after the first day of your period. This will be the time when your breasts are least likely to be sensitive.
- Wear a two-piece outfit. You will only have to take off your top.
- Do not put deodorant, powder, lotion or cream on the upper body when you go for your mammogram. These things can get on the breast or film holder and may look like something is wrong on the mammogram.
- Relax. If you feel pain during the test, ask to stop the exam for a short time.
- If you want, ask a family member or friend to come along to give you support.
- Bring a list of the places, dates of mammograms, biopsies or other breast treatments you have had before.
Are you in danger of getting breast cancer?
You are at a higher risk of getting breast cancer if any of the following apply:
- 50 years to 74 years and older
- A family member has or had breast cancer
- You had your first period before age 12
- You began menopause after the age of 55
- Your first child was born when you were 35 years of age or older
- Have no children
To find lumps early, always do three things:
- Check your own breasts each month after your period.
- See your provider for a breast exam.
- Talk to your provider about getting a mammogram if you are 50 years of age or older.
*U.S. Preventive Services Task Force