Mammogram Frequently Asked Questions
Every major American medical organization with expertise in breast cancer care, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), American Cancer Society, American College of Radiology, and Society of Breast Imaging recommend that women start getting annual mammograms at age 40. Regular screening mammograms have been shown to markedly reduce the number of women who die from breast cancer.
If you have increased risk for breast cancer due to family history or other factors, speak with your doctor about starting screening earlier than age 40.
A woman has a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer over her lifetime, and women who have one or more first-degree relatives (mother/father, sister/brother, or daughter/son) diagnosed with breast cancer are at higher risk of developing cancer.
Women who are considered higher risk may need to begin mammography earlier, such as in these instances:
- Women with strong family history:
- First-degree relatives diagnosed with breast cancer especially at pre-menopausal ages (i.e. parent, sibling or child)
- Parent or family member with one of the breast cancer genes (BRCA 1 or BRCA 2)
- Women with a past history of receiving radiation to the chest between ages 10 and 30
The age of your relative(s) at diagnosis can guide decision-making regarding when you begin screening mammography. For example: if your mother was diagnosed in her 30s, your first mammogram would most likely be recommended earlier than age 40.
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.
Appointments are optional. If you have no appointment and we are busy, continue shopping and we will text you when you’re next. Or, relax in our beautiful lounge area, listen to soothing music, and have a café latte. The exam takes less than 15 minutes, so you’ll be on your way very soon.
The Affordable Care Act requires all health insurance plans, Medicare and Medicaid to cover yearly mammograms with no co-payment for women age 40 and older.
So at PURE Mammography, women with health insurance have no out-of-pocket expense for a screening 3D mammogram.
For uninsured women, we offer low-cost mammograms that are the most affordable in the area.
If your report says you need additional imaging, don’t panic! In the large majority of women (around 80%), the extra views and/or ultrasound shows no abnormality and no need for further testing. These false alarms are often due to overlapping layers of normal breast tissue, which can sometimes produce unclear results.
The staff at PURE will call you to arrange for follow-up testing as soon as possible at any of our 7 affiliated Medical Arts Radiology Women’s Imaging Centers located throughout Long Island. These full-service offices perform diagnostic mammography, breast ultrasound, MRI and minimally invasive needle biopsy. All of Medical Arts Radiology’s Women’s Imaging Centers are designated as Breast Imaging Centers of Excellence by the American College of Radiology.
Mammography is the best test we have at this time to find breast cancer early, but it is not perfect. About 10% of cancers cannot be seen. So, it is still important for women to have their breasts examined on a regular basis by a healthcare professional.
You should also be familiar with how your breasts look and feel so you can alert your healthcare professional if there are any changes. This is called breast self-awareness. Many experts now say that women should focus on breast self-awareness instead of doing a breast self-examination (BSE).
Breast self-awareness isn’t about following a certain method and schedule. Breast self-awareness is knowing what’s normal for your breasts. That way you can notice even small changes right away.
Call your provider if you find any changes in your breasts that concern you. These changes may include:
- A lump
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, especially a bloody discharge
- A change in size or shape
- Skin irritation, such as redness, thickening, or dimpling of the skin
- Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit
- Nipple problems, such as pain or redness
Contact your provider if you find lumpiness in one breast, feel something different in the tissue, or feel a definite lump. Sometimes the lumpiness may be due to menstrual changes. But there may be reason for concern.
It’s normal to be upset if you find a lump. But it’s important to contact your provider right away. Remember that most breast lumps are benign. This means they are not cancer.
At PURE Mammography, we only see women for screening exams. If you currently have a breast complaint, such as a palpable lump, nipple discharge or skin changes, we will refer you to one of our affiliated Women’s Imaging Centers at Medical Arts Radiology for a complete diagnostic mammogram and additional testing, as needed.
No doctor referral or prescription is needed at PURE for a screening mammogram. Our staff will request the name of your health care provider to send a copy of your mammogram report to. You will also be receiving a letter explaining your mammogram results written in layperson terms.
We encourage all women to be examined annually by a health care provider in addition to undergoing annual screening mammography. If you do not currently have a physician, we can refer you to a physician experienced in breast care for follow up and a clinical breast exam. If you decline our referral, we will send you a copy of your mammogram report, along with a letter explaining the results in layperson terms.
No preparation is necessary.
If you are scheduling your mammogram ahead of time, we suggest you don’t wear deodorant, powder or lotion under your arms or on your breasts. If you forgot, or if you just stopped in for an exam without an appointment, don’t worry. Our staff will just ask that you wipe this off prior to the exam.
If you’re scheduling your exam and have had prior mammograms performed at another center, please arrange with that facility to get a CD copy of your mammogram. Bring these with you the day of your exam or you can mail them to us ahead of time. If you come to PURE without your prior studies, don’t worry. Our staff can obtain your records for you.
Breasts are made up of a mixture of fibrous and glandular tissue and fatty tissue. Your breasts are considered dense if you have a lot of fibrous or glandular tissue but not much fat.
Breast density is determined by the radiologist who reads your mammogram. There are four categories of breast density:
- Fatty – totally made up of fatty tissue
- Scattered – more fat than glandular tissue
- Heterogeneously Dense – mostly dense tissue or areas of very dense tissue
- Extremely Dense – almost all dense tissue
Women who have dense breast tissue have a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer than women with average dense breast tissue. Dense breasts also make it more difficult for doctors to spot cancer on mammograms.
If you have dense breasts, please talk to your doctor. Together, you can decide which, if any, additional screening exams are right for you. Studies have shown that ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help find breast cancers that can’t be seen on a mammogram. However, both MRI and ultrasound, show more findings that are not cancer, which can result in added testing and unnecessary biopsies. Also, the cost of ultrasound and MRI may not be covered by insurance.
Women who have dense breasts should still have an annual screening mammogram. Many cancers are seen on mammograms even if you have dense breast tissue. Mammography is the only medical imaging screening test proven to reduce breast cancer deaths.