The Basics

Get a mammogram every 1 to 2 years starting at age 40. Mammograms help find breast cancer early. It's also a good idea to do a breast self exam every month.

You may need to start getting mammograms before age 40 if breast or ovarian cancer runs in your family. Talk to a doctor or nurse about when to start and how often you need to get a mammogram.

What Happens During a Mammogram?
A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. Mammograms use a very low level of x-rays (or “radiation”). A mammogram is very safe.

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. Mammograms do not hurt. 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, shape, or feel of the breast
  * Fluid (called discharge) from a nipple

Learn How to Do a Breast Self-Exam
It’s a good idea for women to do a breast self-exam every month.

This will help you learn how your breasts normally look and feel so that you can notice any changes.

Start doing regular breast self-exams in your 20s. Breast self-exams do not take the place of regular mammograms.

The Benefits

Take Control – Act Early
A mammogram could save your life. Mammograms and regular breast exams by your doctor can find breast cancer early. You have a better chance of surviving breast cancer if it’s found early.

The risk of getting breast cancer gets higher as you get older. That's why it’s important for you to get regular mammograms if you are a woman over 40.

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!

Regular mammograms can help your doctor find breast cancer early.

Schedule Your Mammogram
Call your doctor or clinic today to schedule a mammogram.

What about cost?
Check with your insurance plan about costs and co-payments. If you don’t have insurance, there may be a 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
When you go to the doctor for a mammogram, ask a family member or friend to go with you. Talk to other women who have had mammograms to learn more about what to expect.

Do a Breast Self-Exam Every Month
Choose the same time every month. The best time to do a breast self-exam is a few days after your period ends. Your breasts are usually less swollen and tender.

Feel your breasts while you are lying down.
The exam is done lying down because it’s easier to feel the breast tissue. Examine one breast at a time.

Look for changes.
Next, look at your breasts in front of a mirror. Check for any changes in the size or shape of the breast, the skin, or the nipple.

If you find a change, see a doctor.
Most breast changes or lumps are not cancer. But only a doctor or nurse can tell for sure. If you see or feel any changes, see a doctor right away.

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:

  * Breast Cancer Interactive Tutorial
  * What you Need to Know About Breast Cancer

Learn about other important tests for women, such as getting tested for cervical cancer each year. Talk with a doctor if breast or ovarian cancer runs in your family.

What do you want to do today?

# Watch this interactive tutorial about getting a mammogram.
# Do a breast self-exam. Notice how your breasts look and feel.
# Make an appointment to get a mammogram at a clinic near you.
# Tell a friend how important it is to get a mammogram after age 40.