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Your Mammogram Questions, Answered

    • August 4, 2023
    • Disease Prevention and Treatment
  • Judith Ford, MD

All your mammogram questions, answered by ArchWell Health's Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Judith Ford.

Why are Mammograms important for older women?

The risk of breast cancer increases as women age. This means many women 65 and older should still be receiving regular screenings. Mammograms are crucial to detecting early stages of breast cancer, before there are any symptoms. Early stages of breast cancer are easier to treat and there are more treatment options available when cancer is detected early.

How often should I get a mammogram?

Women over 55 should schedule a mammogram every one to two years until you and your provider determine you should stop receiving mammograms.

Will I need to pay for a mammogram?

Medicare covers the costs of screening mammograms for all women over 40. Simply call your ArchWell Health center to talk about setting up your mammogram appointment close to your home.

At what age should I stop receiving yearly breast cancer screenings?

There is no clear-cut age that you should stop receiving mammograms. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force suggests women have mammograms every year until age 69, every two years between 70 and 75 and to continue mammograms after 75 as suggested by their doctor. That is why it is important to talk with your primary care provider to determine when it may be time to consider less frequent mammograms, or stop breast cancer screenings all together. Some factors they will take into consideration include:

  • Other disease diagnoses
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Previous breast cancer diagnosis
  • Overall health
  • Willingness to treat breast cancer

It is important that you have a comfortable and open relationship with your primary care provider to help you make decisions about your overall health. At ArchWell Health our providers spend more time with members, and see members more often, to ensure we know your health concerns and can create a care plan you feel confident with.

Where do I get a mammogram as a senior?

If you are an ArchWell Health member, your care team will help find a convenient location for you to receive your mammogram. These mammograms often happen at imaging centers or hospitals. Consider doing your routine Bone Density screening at the same time as your mammogram. Call your ArchWell Health center today so they can help you set your appointment up.

How should I prepare for this procedure?

On the day of your mammogram do not wear lotion, deodorant or powder under your arms or on your breasts. You should also describe any problems you’re experiencing with your breasts with your technologist. Remove all jewelry and clothing from the waist up – you will be given a gown that opens in the front to change into at your appointment.

Are mammogram’s painful for seniors?

Mammograms compress your breast and do cause some discomfort for a short period of time.

How long will my mammogram take?

Your mammogram appointment will likely take less than 30 minutes total.

Are there different kinds of mammograms for seniors?

No, seniors receive the same mammograms as all adult women. Mammograms are the best way to find cancer early, no matter your age. If you are over the age of 75 and worried about the risks or discomfort of receiving mammograms, talk to your primary care provider to determine the best plan for your overall health and wellbeing.

What is a mammogram?

Mammograms are special X-rays of the breast. The X-ray image can find lumps that may be too small to be felt during a self or clinical breast exam. The technologist will place your breast on a plastic plate and another plate will firmly press your breast to flatten the breast. You will feel some pressure. Mammograms are done routinely with women who have breast implants without issues.

What happens if my mammogram is abnormal?

For older women who receive abnormal mammogram results, your doctor will order a diagnostic mammogram. Diagnostic mammograms provide more images of a lump or area of concern in the breast. This will help determine if more action is needed.

I’ve already had breast cancer, how often do I need exams?

If you have already been treated for breast cancer and are over the age of 60, you should be receiving yearly mammograms. Your doctor may determine you need mammograms more often if your treatment was recent.

What is my risk of breast cancer as I age?

The risk of breast cancer increases as a women age. Your risk of breast cancer is also determined by if your family (parents, siblings, children, aunts and cousins) have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Besides age and family history, what are other known risks of breast cancer?

Drinking alcohol, being overweight or obese, lack of physical activity, not having children, not breastfeeding, taking oral contraception or hormone replacement therapy, and having breast implants all increase women’s risk of developing breast cancer.

Do I need to pay for a mammogram if I have a Medicare Advantage plan?

Medicare Part B covers the costs of yearly screening mammograms for women over 40. But once you join a Medicare plan at 65 your breast cancer screening services could change. Screening mammograms, which are the typical breast exam most women receive every year, are still covered by Medicare whether you choose a traditional Medicare plan (Parts A and B) or a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C).

Medicare Part B will continue to cover your screening mammograms each year. Medicare part B also covers 80 percent of the cost of diagnostic mammograms, which are used to get a closer look at tissue in the breast. If you selected a Medicare Advantage plan when you turned 65, or Medicare Part C, your screening mammograms are also covered. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan your plan may apply cost-sharing if your doctors think you need a diagnostic mammogram.

Will Medicaid cover the cost of mammograms?

If you are a senior covered by both Medicare and Medicaid, Medicare will cover your screening mammogram.

Disclaimer: The article provides information designed to complement your personal health management. It does not provide medical advice and not meant to replace professional medical advice. Linking to other websites does not imply any endorsement of the material on such websites.

About the Author

Judith Ford, MD, Chief Clinical Officer

Growing up with a father as a physician and a mother as a nurse, Judith Ford, a Medical Doctor (MD), has always had an interest in the medical field and caring for others. After attending college and medical school, she began practicing with a focus on taking care of older patients with complex conditions. With this mission in mind, the move to ArchWell Health was a natural fit. When not practicing medicine, she’s spending time with her husband, Chris, and her children, Sara and Jane.

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