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.
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.
Yes. If you are over 40 and have insurance, the cost of a screening mammogram is typically covered when it’s delivered by a provider (doctor, clinic, hospital) that is in your insurance network. Always check with your insurance provider to see if co-pays or deductibles apply. Note that some providers will cover the cost of traditional 2-D screening mammograms, but not 3-D mammograms.
Saturday and evening appointments are available at some locations. Please ask for them when you call to schedule.
Early studies show that when 3D mammography is used with 2D mammography, breast cancer detection is significantly improved. This approach has also been found to reduce 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. Getting a 3D mammogram adds a few more seconds to your screening.
Breast Cancer Screening Resources
- Breast cancer screening: The goal of breast cancer screening is to detect cancer at the earliest possible stage, when it is most treatable. This video reviews the three components of breast screening, which are a breast self-exams if you choose to do them, annual breast clinical exams by your doctor and age/health appropriate mammograms each year.
- Mammogram quiz: Test your knowledge of what steps to take to catch breast cancer in the early stages.
- Concerned about cost or don't have insurance?: The Wisconsin Well Woman Program can help. Call 608-266-8311 or visit dhs.wisconsin.gov/wwwp.
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?