Mammography Frequently Asked Questions

Who should have a mammogram every year? That's just one of the many questions women have about mammography.

The National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society recommend annual screening mammography for women over 40. The Beaumont Cancer Institute offers high-quality digitized mammograms, the best way to detect breast cancer early, before lumps can be felt, which allows treatment to be given at an early stage. For patients, using digital mammography means outstanding image quality, typically shorter exam times and means electronic images can be stored as a computer image, enhanced and magnified to produce the sharpest image available.

The American Cancer Society also recommends that women use a facility, such as Beaumont Hospitals that specializes in mammograms and performs many mammograms daily. Beaumont Hospitals offer women the convenience of MRI ultrasound and mammography at each of their comprehensive breast care centers.

Beaumont has reached the American College of Radiology (SCR) Gold Standard for Mammography. Reaching the Gold Standard means our facilities have demonstrated a strong commitment to image quality and safety.

What are the benefits of screening mammography?

Today's high-quality screening mammography is the most effective tool available to physicians in detecting breast cancer before lumps can be felt or symptoms of cancer appear. Early detection of breast cancer not only helps provide a woman with more options, but also increases the possibility of a favorable prognosis.

Is there a risk of radiation exposure from having regular mammograms?

You may want to ask your physician about the amount of radiation used during the procedure and the risks related to your particular situation. It is a good idea to keep record of your past history of radiation exposure, such as previous scans and other types of x-rays, so that you can inform your physician. Risks associated with radiation exposure may be related to the cumulative number of x-ray examinations and/or treatments over a long period of time. Special care is taken to ensure that the lowest possible amount of radiation exposure occurs when you have a mammogram.

What should a woman expect when having a mammogram?

A woman should avoid using deodorant and lotions and wear two-piece clothing on the day of her mammogram. A specially-trained radiological technologist, who will perform the x-ray, will ask the woman to undress and stand next to the x-ray machine. Two flat surfaces, or plates, are lowered and compress each breast for a few seconds. This compression is necessary to produce the best pictures using the lowest amount of radiation possible.

Are mammograms painful?

Some women find the pressure of the plates on their breasts to be uncomfortable or even somewhat painful. Timing your mammogram when your breasts are not tender is important. In premenopausal women, this is usually one week after your menstrual period. If you do experience discomfort or pain, remember that each x-ray takes just a few moments and could save your life.

Who pays for mammography?

Medicare covers mammography screening for women 65 and older every year. Most states now require that health insurance policies offer mammography screening reimbursement. In addition, many mammography facilities also offer special programs and lower fees during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.

For low income women, mammograms are covered through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer  Early Detection Program. For more information, contact your state Department of Health.