1. Yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health.
2. Use a facility that specializes in mammograms or that performs many (at least three to five) each day. Ask to see the FDA certificate showing that the facility meets high professional standards.
3. If you are satisfied with the facility, continue to go there each year so that your mammograms can be compared from year to year. If not, take copies of your old mammograms to a new facility so that they will have them for comparison.
4. Mammogram costs, or a percentage of them, are covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private health plans. Call the American Cancer Society to find out about the availability of low-cost mammograms in your area.
5. All mammogram facilities are required to send your results to you within 30 days and to contact you within five business days if there is a suspected problem. Call your doctor of the facility if you do not receive your results.
6. Only two to four mammograms out of every 1,000 will lead to a cancer diagnosis. Ten percent of women may require an additional mammogram, but only eight to 10 percent of them will need a biopsy. Eighty percent of those biopsies will not be cancer.
7. The procedure will require you to undress to the waist, but the facility will provide a wrap for you to wear.
8. Deodorant, powder, or cream under your arms may interfere with the quality of the mammogram.
9. Only you and the technologist who positions your breasts will be present for the mammogram, and most technologists are women.
10. The entire procedure should take about 20 minutes and should include two views of each breast. The breast compression may cause some discomfort, which you can lessen by not scheduling a mammogram immediately before or during your period. Tell the technologist if you experience pain during the procedure.
Remember: If you have a lump in your breast, you will need more tests even if your mammogram is normal.
Editor's Note: This message provided by the American Cancer Society. They can be reached by phone at 1-800-ACS-2345 or online at www.cancer.org.