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Screening Mammogram for Breast Cancer

The earlier that you detect breast cancer, the higher the chance that treatment is successful.1 Physically examining your breasts regularly is a good start. However, some signs of breast cancer may be invisible without the help of a radiology procedure known as a mammogram. Mammograms involve taking images of the breasts so that medical providers can examine breast tissue for irregularities. This article will explain screening mammograms in more detail, including what forms of breast cancer they can detect. Plus, you’ll learn when and where to get mammograms and what to expect in terms of costs.

What is a screening mammogram?

Screening mammograms are routine preventive procedures performed on asymptomatic patients to look for signs of breast cancer that may go undetected by physical examination alone. During a screening mammogram, radiologists perform X-ray imaging of your breasts from multiple angles. They then examine the images for any irregularities or other signs that warrant a closer look.2

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Screening mammogram vs. diagnostic mammogram

Screening and diagnostic mammograms differ in a few key ways. Screening mammograms are more akin to a routine checkup, with the purpose being to look for any early signs of breast cancer. Diagnostic mammograms, on the other hand, are ordered if signs of breast cancer are found during a screening mammogram or the patient is experiencing symptoms.2

Women should get screening mammograms annually or every two years, depending on their age.3 A patient only undergoes a diagnostic mammogram when needed, such as if signs are detected.

Types of breast cancer mammograms can help detect

Mammograms can detect an array of breast cancer types. Here are some common forms it can catch:

  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS): This is the earliest form of breast cancer. It consists of abnormal cells in the breast duct’s lining that have not yet spread outside of it.4
  • Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC): This is the most common form of breast cancer, making up 70% to 80% of breast cancers.4 It occurs when the cancer has spread from the duct lining to surrounding tissue.
  • Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC): This cancer forms in the lobules, or the glands that produce breast milk. About 10% of breast cancer cases are ILC.5
  • Triple-negative breast cancer: This aggressive form of breast cancer lacks estrogen and progesterone receptors. It may also lack or make very few HER2 receptors.4

When should I get a screening mammogram?

Women should have the option to start getting mammograms when they turn 40. However, it’s recommended that women start getting annual mammograms by age 45. At 55, women can either continue yearly screening or reduce the frequency to one mammogram every two years. Then, they should continue getting mammograms as long as they are in good health and have a remaining life expectancy of at least 10 years. Speak to your health provider if you’re not sure about how often you should get a mammogram.3

Where to get a screening mammogram for breast cancer

Mammograms are available at several types of medical facilities.2 Here are some of your options:

  • Hospitals: Hospitals may have a radiology department that can provide mammograms.
  • Women’s health centers: Some women’s health centers have the imaging equipment needed to perform mammograms.
  • OBGYN practices: OBGYN practices may offer mammograms if they have the equipment required.
  • Cancer centers: Comprehensive cancer centers will have the equipment and professionals necessary to perform mammograms and diagnose breast cancer.
  • Doctors’ offices and clinics: Some clinics and primary care providers' offices may have mammography equipment.
  • Mobile mammography units: Mobile mammography units may travel to certain areas to provide mammography services to women who may not have easy access to other facilities.

Facilities providing mammograms must adhere to Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA) criteria.2 This means you can rest assured that you can receive a high-quality baseline of care regardless of the mammogram provider you visit.

Screening mammogram costs

Many health insurance policies cover screening mammograms since they are more along the lines of preventive care.2 However, insurance policies may require a copay or coinsurance for diagnostic mammograms. Check with your insurance company and plan to see what’s covered and what the cost may be before booking your mammogram.

If your policy doesn’t cover all preventive screenings, a supplemental cancer insurance policy can help bridge the gap. For example, Aflac cancer insurance offers help with expenses associated with cancer screenings so you can get the care you need worry-free.

Get a quote for cancer insurance

Mammograms can help detect breast cancer signs invisible to physical or visual examination. This can potentially make treatment more successful if a diagnosis is made.

Screening mammograms are typically covered by health insurance, but diagnostic mammograms may not be fully covered. Plus, health policies may not cover all the costs of treatment in case of a diagnosis.

Fortunately, cancer insurance can offer additional insurance coverage. Aflac cancer insurance policies provide help when you need it most. Additionally, your policy can pay a cash benefit that you can use for any expenses — not just medical bills. Start chatting with an Aflac agent today to experience the financial security that cancer insurance can help provide.

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