What Is a Mammogram?

– Mammography uses X-rays to create images of the breast. These images are called mammograms. Getting a screening mammogram takes about 15 minutes.

– During the exam, each breast is pressed between 2 plates and an X-ray image is made. Two views of each breast are taken, one with the X-ray beam aimed from top to bottom and the other from side to side. Sometimes, the pressure can be uncomfortable, but it only lasts for a few seconds.

– Overall, mammography is the most effective screening tool used to find breast cancer in most women. It can find cancers at an early stage, when they are small and the chances of survival are highest.


What Is My Risk of Developing Breast Cancer?

One in 8 women in the U.S. develop breast cancer in their lifetimes.

Here are some factors that affect your risk:

– How old you are

– How much exercise you get

– How much alcohol you drink

– If you are an Ashkenazi Jew

– If your first period was before you were 12

– Whether you have a family history of breast cancer

– If you have never had children, or if you had your first child after age 35

– If you have dense breasts



What are the potential harms?

– You could be asked to have additional screening. Fewer than 1 in 10 women called back actually has breast cancer

– The process of getting a mammogram can be uncomfortable, and for some women scary

– Some small breast cancers will be discovered and treated, even though they may not have caused a problem if left untreated

– You’re exposed to a small amount of radiation during a mammogram. While the radiation exposure during mammography can increase the risk of breast cancer over time, this increase in risk is very small

What are the potential benefits?

– Finding breast cancer early offers the best likelihood of survival

– Establishing a baseline image can be helpful for evaluating future abnormal screening mammograms


– I would only want to start screening now if my risk of cancer is high

__YES __NO

– I’m afraid of getting a mammogram

__YES __NO

– I’m worried about the potential harms of getting a mammogram

__YES __NO

– Getting a mammogram is a hassle

__YES __NO

– I’m not that worried about getting cancer

__YES __NO

– I’m concerned that my insurance won’t cover the cost of my mammogram __YES __NO

Discuss with your medical professional?

Did you agree with more of the statements? Starting mammography at 40 may not be for you. Did you disagree with more of these statements? You may want to talk to your doctor about starting screening mammography at 40.

No matter what your answers, please share them with your medical professional. Together you can come up with the best screening schedule for you.

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