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Get Tested for Breast Cancer

Photo of an x-ray of a woman's breast

The Basics

Women age 40 and older should have a mammogram every 1 to 2 years.

If you have a family history of breast cancer, you may need to start getting mammograms before age 40. Talk to a doctor or nurse about when to start and how often you should get a mammogram.

What Happens During a Mammogram?
A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. Mammograms help find breast cancer early. A mammogram does not cause cancer. Mammograms use a very low level of x-rays (or “radiation”).

When you get a mammogram, the nurse will place your breasts, one at a time, between two plastic plates and take pictures of each breast. A mammogram lasts less than 15 minutes.

What is breast cancer?
Abnormal cells in the breast can turn into cancer. Breast cancer can spread to other parts of the body. Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common kind of cancer in women.

Symptoms of breast cancer may include:

  • A lump in the breast
  • A change in size or shape of the breast
  • Fluid (called "discharge") from a nipple

The Benefits

Take Control – Act Early
A mammogram along with a breast exam by your doctor or other healthcare provider can find breast cancer early. Finding breast cancer early means that you have a better chance of surviving the disease. Mammograms could save your life!

The risk of getting breast cancer gets higher as you get older. That is why it’s important for women over age 40 to get regular mammograms.

What if the Doctor Finds Something Wrong With my Breast?
Mammograms allow the doctor to look for small lumps inside your breast. If a lump is found in your breast, the doctor will order other tests to find out if it’s cancer. The doctor may take a small bit of tissue from the lump. This is called a biopsy.

Take Action!

Call your doctor or clinic for a mammogram today.

Find out Where you can get a Mammogram in Your Community
Find out where you can get a free or low-cost mammogram near you. Or call your doctor or local health center. Make an appointment today!

What About Cost?
Check with your insurance plan about costs and co-payments. If you don’t have insurance, there may be free or low-cost mammogram program where you live. If you have Medicare and are over 40, Medicare pays for the cost of your mammogram once every year.

Get Support
If you are going to the doctor for a mammogram, ask a family member or friend to go with you. Talking to other women who have had mammograms can be helpful.

Learn More About Breast Cancer
About one in eight women in the United States will get breast cancer. Visit these Web sites to learn more:

Learn about other important tests for women, such as getting tested for cervical cancer each year.

What do you want to do today?

  • Make an appointment to get a mammogram at a clinic near you.
  • Watch this interactive tutorial about getting a mammogram.
  • Tell a friend how important it is to get a mammogram after age 40.
  • National Health Information Center

    P.O. Box 1133, Washington, DC 20013-1133