There are no sure things in medicine, but mammography comes close.
Regular mammograms have been proven to find breast cancer at its earliest stages when treatments are most effective. But many women fail to take advantage of these powerful, potentially lifesaving tests because of unfounded fears. If you're one of them, let's break down the barriers.
Excuse 1: "I'm afraid insurance won't cover it."
If you have Medicare coverage, it pays for a screening mammogram every 12 months. There also may be low- or no-cost screening programs where you live. Many health plans cover mammograms, so check with your insurer. And because of the Affordable Care Act, women enrolled in health plans created after March 23, 2010, pay nothing for screening mammograms.
Excuse 2: "The test is too painful."
Yes, the test can be a bit uncomfortable, but most women don't consider it painful. During mammography, your breast is placed on a soft, cushioned MammoPad™ and compressed with a plastic paddle. Compression helps hold the breast still, evens out the breast tissue and allows lower doses of X-rays to be used. Because there is pressure on the breast, the American Cancer Society recommends that you schedule the procedure one week after your period, when your breasts are least tender.
“There’s minimal discomfort, and it’s very quick—the X-ray takes less than a minute,” says Jackie Brown, a certified breast care nurse and the manager of breast services at the Beaufort Memorial Women¹s Imaging Center in Beaufort. “And we squeeze with love!” If you do feel pain, speak up, she says. Your technologist may be able to lower the compression and relieve some of the pressure on your breast.
Excuse 3: "I can't afford the co-payment/deductible."
Some state and local health programs and employers provide mammograms free or at low cost. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) coordinates the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. This program provides testing services, including clinical breast exams and mammograms, to low-income women in the United States.
Excuse 4: "I just don't have time."
A half-hour, once-a-year appointment could save your life. From start to finish, a basic screening mammogram lasts about 15 to 30 minutes. A more in-depth diagnostic mammogram, which takes images from more angles, runs 30 to 45 minutes. If that still sounds like too much time, know that several large studies conducted around the world show that mammograms help reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer for women ages 40 to 69, especially those older than 50. Think about what other regular activities take just 30 minutes. Watching the news? Doing a cycle of laundry? Neither of those can help you kick a nasty disease in the face.
In short, mammograms are not as stressful or cost-prohibitive as you may have believed. “Mammograms reduce your risk of dying from breast cancer by 25 to 30 percent because they detect lumps earlier,” Brown says. “Don't be afraid to have one done.”
To schedule a mammogram at our Women’s Imaging Center, please call 843-522-5015.