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Breast cancer detection and prevention

Get a mammogram: Do it for yourself, do it for your family       Send a link to a friend 

From the National Cancer Institute  

[OCT. 28, 2005]  BETHESDA, Md. -- Breast health information provided by the National Cancer Institute:

Get a mammogram every one to two years.

Take care of your health now, so you can be there for your family later.

Are you at risk for breast cancer?

Simply being a woman and getting older puts you at risk for breast cancer. The older you are, the greater your chances of getting breast cancer. Also, you are at higher risk if your mother, sister or daughter has had breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the leading cancer among women of many Asian and Pacific Islander groups in the U.S. Many women do not know they have breast cancer until it is advanced.

Finding the disease early with mammograms and breast exams by your doctor or nurse can save your life. For yourself and your family, call your doctor for an exam and mammogram today.

What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray picture of the breast. A mammogram along with a breast exam by your doctor or nurse can find breast cancer at an early stage, when it can best be treated. A mammogram does not cause cancer. Because the amount of radiation used is very low, the risk of any harm is extremely small.

What happens during a mammogram?

A mammogram is a simple test. When you go for a mammogram, the technician taking the picture will place your breast between two X-ray panels. The panels will push your breast between them to get a clear picture. You may feel a little bit of discomfort, but each X-ray takes less than a minute.

Who should get one?

Women in their 40s and older should get a mammogram every one to two years. A woman's chance of getting breast cancer is greater as she ages.

Why should I have one?

Mammograms can save your life by finding breast cancer early. A mammogram can show cancer that is too small for you or your doctor to feel. When breast cancer is found early, you have more treatment options.

"Early detection will give you more treatment options and certainly a better chance to survive." -- Robin Chin, breast cancer survivor

How will I pay?

If you have Medicare and are age 40 or older, Medicare pays for most of the cost of a screening mammogram every 12 months. If needed, Medicare will pay for a diagnostic mammogram at any time. There may also be low- and no-cost screening programs where you live.

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Not just once, but for a lifetime.

Mammograms can save lives.

How do I get a mammogram?

  • Ask your doctor today about a referral.

  • If you have Medicare, it pays for most of the cost of your mammogram once every 12 months.

  • Check with your insurance plan about costs and co-payments.

  • Make an appointment with a mammography center approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Your doctor or nurse can help you find one.

  • When you go for your mammogram, do not wear lotions, powders, perfumes or deodorant. They can cause shadows on the X-ray picture.

  • Follow up with your doctor to get the results.

What else can I do?

If you are in your 40s or older, get a mammogram every one to two years.

Ask your doctor or nurse to give you a clinical breast exam every year.

A woman's chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer is:

  • By age 40 -- one out of 257.

  • By age 50 -- one out of 67.

  • By age 60 -- one out of 36.

  • By age 70 -- one out of 28.

  • By age 80 -- one out of 24.

  • Ever -- one out of eight.

Source: National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program, 1997

Where can I learn more?

For more information, call the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service, 1 (800) 4-CANCER [1 (800) 422-6237] or TTY 1 (800) 332-8615.

You can also visit the National Cancer Institute online at

For Medicare information, visit or call 1 (800) MEDICARE [1 (800) 633-4227 or TTY 1 (877) 486-2048.

[National Cancer Institute]

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