A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast to check for breast cancer. Mammograms can help find breast cancer early, before it spreads to other parts of the body. Most women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early.
- If you are age 40 to 49, talk with your doctor about when to start getting mammograms and how often to get them.
- If you are age 50 to 74, get mammograms every 2 years. You may also choose to get them more often.
Together, you and your doctor can decide what’s best for you.
The Affordable Care Act requires most health plans to cover mammograms for women over age 40. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get mammograms at no cost to you. Talk to your insurance company to learn more.
Like all medical tests, mammograms have pros and cons. These pros and cons depend on your age and your risk for breast cancer. Use the questions below to start a conversation with your doctor about mammograms.
What do I ask the doctor?
Visiting the doctor can be stressful. It helps to have questions for the doctor written down ahead of time. Print this list of questions and take it with you to your next appointment. You may also want to ask a family member or close friend to go with you to take notes.
- Do I have any risk factors that increase my chances of getting breast cancer?
- What will happen when I go to get mammograms?
- How long will it take to get the results of my mammograms?
- If I don’t hear back about the results of my mammograms, does that mean everything is okay?
If you are under age 50, you might want to ask:
- Should I start getting regular mammograms? If so, how often?
- What are the pros and cons of getting mammograms before age 50?
If you are age 50 to 74, you might want to ask:
- How often should I get mammograms?
- What are the pros and cons of getting mammograms every 2 years instead of every year?
Content last updated October 15, 2020
This information on breast cancer was adapted from materials from the National Cancer Institute and the Office on Women’s Health.
Rebecca Chasan, Ph.D.
Chief, Science Writing and Review Branch
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Cancer Institute
National Institutes of Health