Annual mammograms and, if you and your doctor decide they’re right for you, monthly breast self-exams are part of a proactive breast health program. The goal is to detect breast cancer early when it is easier to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms. Having regular mammograms can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer.
Schedule Your Screening Mammogram Now
Froedtert & MCW imaging locations are open for scheduling your diagnostic and screening mammograms. We appreciate that you’re being proactive about taking care of yourself and will work with you to schedule your exam as soon as possible.
We offer the ability to schedule your screening mammogram online. Choose the mammography location, date and time that best meets your needs. Saturday and evening appointments are also available at some locations.
Are Mammograms Covered by Insurance?
It is always a good idea to check with your insurance provider to see if insurance co-pays or deductibles apply.
There is a difference in how insurance providers cover screening and diagnostic mammograms. The Affordable Care Act requires health insurance plans to cover the costs of preventive services you qualify for. That includes screening mammograms performed within your insurance network, if you are at average risk of developing breast cancer, starting at age 40, every one or two years. A screening mammogram is a test you have routinely when you don’t have any symptoms of breast cancer.
If you have a mammogram because you have breast cancer symptoms, such as a lump, the mammogram is not a screening — it is a diagnostic test or diagnostic mammogram. Also, if a lump or suspicious area is found during a screening mammogram, a follow-up mammogram or other imaging test to confirm or rule out cancer is considered diagnostic. For diagnostic tests, your insurance company will require you to pay deductibles, copays or coinsurance — just the same as would be charged for any other tests your doctor uses to rule out or confirm a health problem.
It is important to know that finding breast cancer at an early stage is a real advantage: Early discovery, when breast cancer is contained within your breast, gives you about a 99% survival rate (National Cancer Institute SEER database, 2011–2017, 5-year relative survival). When breast cancer is found late, after it has spread beyond your breast, the odds are less favorable: For instance, if cancer is found when it has already spread to other organs like the lungs, long-term survival is around 29%. The bottom line: Screening mammograms can find cancer when it is too small for you to feel. Early discovery and treatment can save your life.
What Happens in a Mammogram?
A mammogram is a clinical exam by a medical professional. The mammogram procedure takes about 30 minutes. Most patients have two pictures of each breast taken, producing a four-view screening exam. All of our mammogram locations use digital mammography, which produces more accurate imaging in most women. If the doctor has concerns about your screening mammogram results, you may be referred for a diagnostic mammogram and additional imaging.
All Froedtert & MCW breast imaging locations use 3D mammography because studies showed that 3D mammography improves breast cancer detection. It also reduces the number of call-backs for additional mammography pictures.
Sometimes small masses or tiny calcium deposits (microcalcifications) that may suggest an early cancer can “hide” between layers of breast tissue. They can be harder to see with 2D mammography alone.
We offer Genius™ 3D mammography technology. The mammogram pictures are taken in a way that allows the radiologist to view them in thin “slices.” Because the radiologist can examine each slice, he or she is able to see your breast tissues more clearly.
Breast Screening Guidelines
We recommend that all women ages 40 and older should have access to mammography, as annual screening mammography saves the most lives. We recommend annual clinical breast exams by a health care provider. Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and tell their provider about any changes right away. As always, we strongly encourage all women to talk with their doctors or other providers about the risks and benefits of breast cancer screening, including the possible need for additional testing. Together with their providers, women should develop a screening schedule that is appropriate for their values and individual health histories.
Breast Density and Mammograms
Breast density refers to the ratio of the fat, connective and glandular tissues that make up your breasts. Whether or not your breasts are predominantly made up of dense tissues can only be determined on mammogram images, and it is different for different women. For more than half of women older than age 40, dense breast tissue will show up on a mammogram.
Dense breast tissues show up as white areas on a mammogram image — as do tumors and calcifications — making it harder to find breast cancer with a mammogram when a woman has dense breast tissue. Having dense breasts may mean you have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than women who have mostly fatty breast tissue, and you may need additional imaging to help distinguish dense breast tissues from abnormal breast tissue.
When you talk with your doctor or other provider, ask about breast density and any supplemental steps you should take when getting a breast cancer screening mammogram. Questions you might ask include:
- Can you explain the findings of my mammogram?
- Do I have dense breasts? If yes, do I have a higher risk of cancer?
- Should I have any other breast cancer screening or diagnostic tests?
- What are my personal risk factors for breast cancer?
- What can I do to lower my risk?
Mammograms and the COVID-19 Vaccine – What You Should Know
Swelling of the lymph nodes is a known side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine. Although it is temporary and not harmful, these enlarged lymph nodes may be seen on your mammogram. Because swollen lymph nodes can indicate breast cancer, we may call you back for additional evaluation and possible follow-up imaging. To avoid this, please schedule your mammogram before your first COVID-19 vaccination or four weeks after your second-dose vaccination.
Virtual Visits Are Available
Safe and convenient virtual visits by video let you get the care you need via a mobile device, tablet or computer wherever you are. We’ll gather your medical records for you and get our experts’ input so we can offer treatment options without an in-person visit. To schedule a virtual visit, call 1-866-680-0505.
Cancer and the COVID-19 Vaccine
There is currently no data that suggests current or former cancer patients should avoid getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Cancer can weaken your immune system, so we recommend that most patients get the vaccine as soon as possible.