Your first mammogram: What to expect
Breast cancer screening exams help find breast cancer at an early stage. When found early, the chances for successfully treating the disease are greatest.
Along with regular exams, practice awareness. This means you should stay familiar with your breasts. That way you’ll notice changes, like a new lump or mass. Then, report them to your doctor without delay.
The screening recommendations below apply to most women.
Age 25 to 39
- Clinical breast exam every one to three years (A health care provider checks for lumps or other changes.)
Age 40 and older
- Clinical breast exam every year
- Mammogram every year
Related: Your first mammogram: What to expect
Exams for women at increased risk
Women at increased risk have a higher chance of getting breast cancer. This doesn’t mean you will definitely get cancer. But, you may need to start screening at an earlier age, get additional tests or be tested more often.
You’re at increased risk for breast cancer if you fall under one or more of these groups.
- History of radiation treatment to the chest
- Genetic mutation, including an abnormality in the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genes, CDH1, Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba Syndrome
- History of lobular carcinoma in situ
- Five-year risk of breast cancer 1.7% or greater at age 35 or older, as defined by a Gail Model calculation. Calculate your risk using the Gail Model.
- A life-time risk of breast cancer 20% or greater, as defined by models dependent on family history. Women with a strong family history of breast cancer should consider speaking with a genetic counselor.
Suspect you may be at increased risk? Print and share MD Anderson’s breast cancer screening chart with your doctor.
Exams for women who have had breast cancer
If you’ve had breast cancer, you need a different plan to check for cancer recurrence.
Print the MD Anderson survivorship chart below that best describes your cancer. And share it with your doctor. Your doctor can use this chart to create a more tailored plan for you.
The screening plans on this page apply to women expected to live for at least 10 years. They’re not for women who have a health condition that may make it hard to diagnose or treat breast cancer. Your doctor can help you decide if you should continue screening after age 75.
As our patients and caregivers know, cancer doesn’t stop for COVID-19. And that means you shouldn’t stop getting your cancer screenings either.
Early on in the pandemic, you may have put off routine medical appointments, including your annual mammogram. But as cases continue to rise and we realize that COVID-19 will be with us for quite some time, you may be wondering if it’s OK to schedule routine cancer screenings, such as mammograms.
To find out, we spoke with Ethan Cohen, M.D., who sees patients at MD Anderson West Houston Diagnostic Imaging. Here are his answers to some common questions about breast cancer screening during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Is it safe to get a mammogram during the COVID-19 pandemic?
At MD Anderson, we’ve gone above and beyond to keep patients and employees safe when they’re on our campuses. For healthy women coming in for an annual mammogram, some of the key precautions include:
- Screening everyone for COVID-19 symptoms at entrances to all of our campuses.
- Providing medical face masks for everyone to wear on our campuses at all times.
- Limiting seating and spacing out appointments to allow for social distancing on campus, including in waiting and dressing rooms.
Learn more about the precautions MD Anderson is taking to protect the largest and densest population of immunocompromised patients in the world.
Why is it important for women to continue to get regular mammograms during the COVID-19 pandemic?
We know from many large clinical trials and observational studies that breast cancer screening saves lives. When breast cancer is found through screening, it’s more survivable than breast cancer found because of a lump or other symptoms. That’s because screening exams help find breast cancer at an earlier stage, when cancer is more treatable.
Most women should get an annual mammogram beginning at age 40. Women at increased risk for breast cancer may need more frequent screening, starting at a younger age more.
Is my annual mammogram covered by insurance?
Breast cancer screening is covered as a preventive service for women age 40 and older. Since January 2019, all commercial insurance providers in Texas have been required to cover digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) – also known as a 3D mammogram – at no additional cost to patients.
What’s the benefit of a 3D mammogram?
A 3D mammogram takes multiple pictures of the breast tissue to create a 3D image of the breast. With a better image of the breast, we’re able to more accurately find and diagnose breast cancer, with less false positives. MD Anderson uses 3D technology at all four mammogram locations to ensure women are getting the most accurate results.
What’s MD Anderson doing to make breast imaging more comfortable and convenient?
We know that when women get a screening mammogram, they just want to know what’s going on as fast as possible. So, we’re now offering real-time results at our locations in West Houston, The Woodlands and League City. This means that if you’re willing to wait 5 to 10 minutes after your exam, our radiologists will read the image right then, and you’ll get the results before you walk out the door. If your results are normal, you won’t have to worry while waiting the usual three to four days to receive results. If your results are abnormal, we’ll be able to schedule any further diagnostic exams right away.
We offer mammograms at several locations throughout the greater Houston are to make it convenient for you to get your mammogram close to home:
Why should I go to MD Anderson for my mammogram?
Where you go for your mammogram matters. Not all radiologists are specifically trained in breast imaging or have extensive experience in breast imaging. At MD Anderson, our entire breast imaging team only does breast imaging, and all of our radiologists have completed a year-long fellowship, which means they’re specially trained to read breast cancer imaging. We have the latest and most precise imaging technology and protocols, a strong culture of safety and exceptional pathology expertise. This means our patients need fewer redundant scans and get a correct diagnosis the first time.
We know that when you come in for a mammogram, you may be nervous or anxious, and it helps to have a radiologist who truly cares and who has read tens of thousands of mammograms, so they know exactly what they’re looking at. Our compassionate team will be here for you when you’re going through the uncertainty of an abnormal result. And if you are diagnosed with breast cancer, we can seamlessly begin your treatment at the nation’s No. 1 cancer center. ?
Schedule Your Mammogram
Complete the online form to schedule a mammogram in the Texas Medical Center, League City, The Woodlands or West Houston Diagnostic Imaging. We will call you within one business day to confirm.
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