Getting screened for breast cancer

A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray of the breast. Doctors use mammograms to look for early signs of breast cancer. Regular mammograms are the best test doctors have to find breast cancer early. Having regular mammograms can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer.

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What to say when you talk to your doctor

Before you get a breast or cervical cancer screening, you may want to ask your doctor the following questions:

  • What are my risks of getting breast/cervical cancer?
  • How often should I be screened?
  • What will happen during the screening test?
  • How long will it take?
  • When and how will I learn about the results?
  • When will I need to have my next screening?

What to expect from a mammogram

During a mammogram, you will stand in front of a special X-ray machine. A doctor will place your breast on a clear plastic plate. Another plate will firmly press your breast from above. The plates will flatten the breast, holding it still while the X-ray is being taken. Having a mammogram is a bit uncomfortable for most women. Some women even find it painful, especially if their breasts are sensitive. But, it only takes only a few moments, and then the discomfort is over.

When to get screened

How often you get screened for breast cancer depends on many factors, including your age, your family history, and your screening history. All women ages 50 to 74 should have mammograms every 2 years. Some women might start mammograms earlier or have mammograms more frequently. Ask your doctor when and how often you should get screened and make your appointment!

Can I get screened if I don't have insurance?

Yes. Free breast and cervical cancer screening is available for eligible, uninsured Massachusetts residents through the Department of Public Health Care Coordination Program. To get more information or to be connected to a Care Coordination Program clinical site near you, please call (877) 414-4447.

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