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8 Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Breast Cancer Screening

We’ve all been there. You’re standing in your doctor’s exam room and she’s ready to wrap things up. She casually asks, “Do you have any questions?” and instantly, your mind goes blank. It’s not until you’re driving home that you remember what you wanted to ask and the rest of the day, you’re kicking yourself.

Don’t worry; it happens to the best of us. But advocating for your own breast health is one of the best things you can do for yourself. So, don’t wait for your doctor to start the conversation. Here are a few questions for next time. Or better yet, to print out and take with you.

1. Would you perform a clinical breast exam (CBE) today?

If your health care provider doesn’t perform a breast exam, ask for one. They won’t mind. An exam takes little time and could find something that needs to be checked.

2. What is my risk of breast cancer?

Breast cancer risk is determined by a number of factors including age, ethnicity, family history, lifestyle, hormone levels, breast density and more. Ask your doctor to access your risk. Understanding your risk can help you make informed choices about your health.

3. When should I start getting mammograms?

If you’re at average risk, start getting mammograms at age 40.  If you are at higher risk, talk with your doctor about when you should start getting mammograms (or other screening tests) and how often to have them.  You can also download our Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Mammography to bring to your appointment.

4. How often should I get a mammogram?

Susan G. Komen® believes all women should have access to regular screening mammograms when they and their health care providers decide it is best based on their personal risk of breast cancer. Breast cancer screening is important for all women. Women at higher than average risk may need breast cancer screening earlier and more often than women at average risk. Talk with your doctor about how often you should get mammograms.

5. Is my mammogram covered by insurance?

Screening mammograms are covered by most insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid. Since 2010, the Affordable Care Act has required all plans to cover screening every one to two years with no out-of-pocket costs for women ages 40 and older. Also, low-cost and free mammograms are offered through national and local programs. Call our Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) for resources in your area.

6. Is my mammogram scheduled at an FDA certified center?

Congress enacted the Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA) in 1992 toensure all facilities meet national standards. To find a certified mammography center in your area, visit the FDA website.

7. Does my radiologist specialize in mammography?

Radiologists who read a lot of mammograms are generally better able to interpret the images than radiologists who don’t read them as often. A high-volume mammography center may help you feel assured your mammogram will be read correctly. In general, though, lower-volume centers are just as good at reading mammograms and most lower-volume, certified mammography centers provide quality screening.

8. Is there another type of screening I should be getting instead? 

Mammography is the most effective screening tool used today to find breast cancer in most women. If a clinical exam or screening mammogram shows a suspicious finding, other tests may be recommended as follow-up, such as a diagnostic mammogram, breast ultrasound or breast MRI.  If you are at higher risk of breast cancer, a mammogram and breast MRI may be recommended for screening.

If you have a physical disability, have breast implants (which can make it harder to read a mammogram), are pregnant or are breastfeeding, ask your doctor about what tests are right for you.  As with implants, the tissue in your breasts while breastfeeding may appear dense on a mammogram, making it hard to read. So, it’s best to wait until after you stop breastfeeding to get a routine screening mammogram. Discuss the best timing to get a mammogram with your health care provider if you’re due for screening.  If you have any concerns about your breasts while you’re breastfeeding (such as finding a lump or other change), see your provider.