It’s normal to have some uncertainty around an upcoming mammogram. Below you’ll find answers to some of the most common questions about the exam.
If you can’t find an answer here, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a member of your Orlando Health care team for more information.
All health insurance plans will cover the full cost of a screening mammogram. However, health insurance plans vary on coverage for diagnostic mammograms. We recommend checking with your insurance company to learn more about your mammogram benefits.
You don’t need a prescription for a screening mammogram at Orlando Health imaging locations. However, your doctor will need to provide a prescription for a diagnostic mammogram. Remember to discuss when you should be getting mammograms with your doctor.
While mammograms cannot prevent breast cancer, they can help a doctor find it when it is at an earlier, more treatable stage. A mammogram can also find a lump before it is large enough for you or your doctor to feel it.
Like most screening tests, mammograms will not detect every cancer. However, mammograms are the only tests that have been shown to reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, when breast cancer is found at an early stage, the five-year survival rate is 90 percent.
If you are undergoing a screening mammogram, the exam typically takes 15-20 minutes. A diagnostic mammogram can last a little longer because the radiologist may request additional images or studies of your breast.
The frequency of your mammograms will depend on your health history and family history of cancer. In some cases, women undergo mammograms every six months, while others may only need them annually. Follow your doctor’s instructions on how often you should get a mammogram.
Following these steps can help you have a comfortable experience and ensure that your mammogram results are accurate:
- Do not wear deodorant or powder under your arm or on your chest. Some of these products contain aluminum, which can affect the mammogram image.
- Wear a comfortable two-piece outfit, so you can easily undress from the waist up.
- Try to schedule your mammogram shortly after the end of your period. This will help ease some breast discomfort.
- Bring any previous mammogram results and images that were not done at an Orlando Health facility. This information helps us track any changes in your breast. If you don’t bring your previous imaging from outside centers, your mammogram results may be delayed. If you had a previous mammogram at an Orlando Health imaging location, we will make sure to collect and review the images.
A standard mammogram, or 2D mammogram, takes two pictures of the breast. While 2D mammograms are an effective way to spot breast tissue changes, more women today are undergoing DBT or 3D mammograms (breast tomosynthesis).
DBT mammograms include a 2D mammogram followed by a series of images taken at different angles. This creates a 3D picture of the breast. With DBT imaging, tissue on one side of the breast doesn’t block tissue on the other side, so it is especially helpful in finding abnormalities in women who have dense breast tissue.
A DBT mammogram doesn’t require additional breast positions. However, the machine will move during the test to get the 3D images.
Both types of mammograms can help detect signs of breast cancer. We recommend talking to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any type of mammogram.
Talk to your doctor about when you should start regular mammograms. Your doctor is your partner in health and can advise you on the screening exams and risk reduction strategies that are right for your age, your history and current health.
The American Cancer Society recommends women at average risk start screening mammograms beginning at age 45. However, if you have a personal or family history of cancer, you may need to start mammograms earlier than 40.
The American Cancer Society recommends:
- Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (X-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
- Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
- Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every two years or can continue yearly screening.
- Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.
Orlando Health provides mammograms at several convenient locations throughout Central Florida.
Our imaging locations may also offer lunchtime and evening hours for mammograms, as well as online scheduling at select locations.
Compression holds the breast in place to minimize blurring of the X-ray images, which can be caused by motion, like breathing. Compression also spreads the breast tissue, so the X-ray has to travel a shorter distance to reach the detector on the other side of your breast. This reduces the radiation dose and improves the quality of the mammogram.
Your breasts will be exposed to a small amount of radiation during the mammogram. However, the benefits of a mammogram far outweigh the risks from a small dose of radiation.
You will be exposed to more radiation if you undergo a 3D and 2D mammogram at the same time, but the amount of radiation is still within a safe limit.