The National Cancer Institute recommends women 40 years of age receive a screening mammogram every one to two years. Patients who have a high risk of breast cancer, especially those with a family history of breast cancer, should talk to their doctor about starting mammograms before the age of 40.

Thanks to Health Care Reform your health plan is required to offer mammograms once a year at no charge. It does not matter if you have, let’s say, a high deductible health plan, or a senior health plan, you still get a free mammogram without having to meet the deductible regardless of the type of health plans you have. Lab fees might be extra though so be sure to read your policy. Depending upon the results of a mammogram, or as part of a diagnostic follow up mammogram, you may need additional mammograms on a more frequent basis. Be sure to check with your doctor. It would also be a good idea to give your insurance broker a call to see how additional mammograms would be covered.

When you look at the x-ray images from a mammogram it sure doesn’t look like much to a lay person. It must say a lot to a radiologist because mammography plays a major role in the early detection of breast cancers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that mammography detects approximately 85% of all breast cancers several years before a lump can even be felt. The mammogram itself will not cause any significant pain, just firm pressure. The quality of the mammogram is improved by the compression of the breast which would be the cause of any discomfort. Imaging of the breast improves a physician’s ability to detect small tumors. There are more treatment options when cancers are small, and cure is more likely. RadiologyInfo.org reports that “until recently x-ray images were maintained as hard film copy (much like a photographic negative). Today most images are digital files that are stored electronically. These stored images are easily accessible and are frequently compared to current x-ray images for diagnosis and disease management”.

A mammogram is an x-ray and x-ray procedures use radiation, so there is some small risk of radiation side effects to the body. The amount of radiation that is administered in mammography is exceptionally low and is approved by national and international regulatory agencies as well as the National Department of Health and Human Services. Radiation can pose a risk to a developing fetus so ladies who are pregnant or may be pregnant should talk to their doctor before having a mammogram.