5 questions to ask before a mammogram

We often think of breast cancer when we hear the “M” word. However, a mammogram is simply an X-ray of the breasts to help make sure your breasts are healthy. These X-rays may pick up signs of breast cancer or other breast conditions that can’t be seen or felt.1

You’ve likely read articles about mammograms or heard stories from friends or family who may have gotten them, and maybe now you’re ready to get one yourself. Read on to learn which questions to ask your doctor, how to help prepare for your visit and what to expect from your mammogram.

Have this convo with your doc — soonish

When it comes to preventive health, there may be no such thing as “too early”. Especially when we’re talking about spotting cancer. It’s not a fun topic to talk about, but your doctor can help make you feel comfortable and heard. Whether you’re ready to schedule your first mammogram or you’re still a few years away, here are 5 questions to start the conversation when you feel ready.

Preparing for your mammogram

There are a few things to keep in mind as you schedule and go to your mammogram appointment. First, be sure to choose a certified mammogram facility. If it’s certified by the FDA, you’re good to go. This just means you can count on that facility to meet certain standards.11

Here’s a quick checklist for the day of, no matter which kind of mammogram you’re headed to.12,13

  • Firm breasts — check! Your appointment should be on a day when your breasts are least likely to be tender. That’s usually the week after your period or any time after menopause.
  • Any prior mammogram images. If you’re visiting a new clinic, ask your previous clinic to send over records of your past mammogram images so the radiologist can compare them against your new ones.
  • Don’t shower or wear deodorant. We know, we know. Not ideal. But we’re just lookin’ out for you. Metallic particles in any kind of antiperspirant, soaps or lotions might show up on your X-ray and cause confusion. Maybe shoot for an early morning appointment so you can head home and shower right after you’re done.
  • Talk TMI. Tell your technician anything you think is important. Things like whether you’re pregnant (or think you might be) or have breast implants. Better yet, mention it when you call to schedule your appointment.

Where can I get a mammogram?

Did you know you don’t need a referral or doctor’s note to schedule a mammogram? That’s right, once you turn 40 you can find yourself a mammogram facility and book a date for an X-ray. Even better? Most insurance covers your preventive screening mammograms starting at age 40. That doesn’t include 3-D or diagnostic mammograms. You’ll likely need to pay a copay or coinsurance, depending on your health plan. Sign into your health plan account to check your benefits and learn about your plan coverage for this type of screening.

Footnotes

  1. What is a Mammogram? cancer.gov, 2016. 
  2. American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer cancer.org, 2020. 
  3. What Are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer? cdc.gov, 2020. 
  4. Mammogram mayoclinic.org, 2019. 
  5. What Is Breast Cancer Screening? cdc.gov, 2020. 
  6. Limitations of Mammograms cancer.org, 2019. 
  7. False-negative results cancer.org, 2019. 
  8. Mammogram mayoclinic.org, 2019.
  9. Diagnostic Mammogram nationalbreastcancer.org, 2020. 
  10. 3D mammogram mayoclinic.org, 2020. 
  11. Mammogram mayoclinic.org, 2019.
  12. Breast Cancer and Mammograms webmd.com, 2020.
  13. Tips for Getting a Mammogram cancer.org, 2019.