October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, and it’s the perfect time to put your health first by getting a mammogram. If insurance won’t cover the cost of your screening, don’t skip it! We’ve done the research for you on how to find free and low-cost mammograms in your area.
You’ve heard it said before — the best defense is a good offense. Well, the same rule applies to your health. Preventative screenings and a healthy lifestyle are the best ways available to protect yourself from a serious illness — including breast cancer.
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Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in the U.S. Approximately 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. However, mammograms correctly identify almost 90% of breast cancers, so it’s CRUCIAL that you make time for this important screening. Here's what you need to know.
BE YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND — EVERYDAY TIPS FOR EARLY BREAST CANCER DETECTION
When it comes to your health, you’ve got to be your own best friend. We work hard as busy moms to make sure our kids are healthy and have what they need. Are you taking that same level of extra care for yourself? Here are the most important things you can do on the daily to protect yourself in the fight against breast cancer.
- Self Exams Monthly – Take an extra 2-3 minutes in the shower or during your bubble bath to give yourself an exam. The key is doing it often enough to spot any differences or lumps when they appear.
- Know Your Family History – Talk to your family about known medical history among relatives, so you can give an educated response when the doctor asks.
- Know Your Risk Factors – Common risk factors for breast cancer include a family or personal history of breast cancer, genetic predispositions, breast density, obesity, alcohol consumption, early menstruation, delayed childbearing, and having fewer children.
- Get A Mammogram – All women over 40 should get a screening every 1-2 years, or earlier if you have a family history of cancer.
Take good care of yourself! We want you to stick around to enjoy all the fun things life has in store. For further information about your risk factors depending on age, check out the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s resource page.
WHAT IS A MAMMOGRAM, AND WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?
Many women don’t get mammograms and preventative screenings because of their uncertainty and fear about the process. So, let’s just lay it all out there and alleviate your fears, shall we?
A mammogram is an X-ray that examines your breast tissue by exposing it to a small amount of radiation to produce a digital image. Some women admit to feeling discomfort during the test due to pressure from the equipment, but the whole process takes only a few moments.
A mammogram is so important because you can’t always feel a lump during a breast self-exam at home. Mammograms can show lumps when they can’t be felt, and can also detect abnormal cells that could progress into cancer if left untreated. Sounds pretty important, right? All women should have regularly scheduled mammograms for early detection and prevention, even if they aren’t having symptoms or have risk factors.
The Susan G. Komen Foundation released a statement in 2015 saying “it is estimated that about one-third of women who should be screened do not have access to services.” That’s a lot of wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters who didn’t get screenings. That’s too many!
If you want more information about mammograms, the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. has a great FREE resource called Mammogram 101 that answers common questions about what you can do to prepare for your screening before, during, and after.
HOW TO TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT A MAMMOGRAM
When it comes to preventative care, you MUST advocate for yourself, girl! Be sure to schedule your annual wellness exams with your primary care physician, and ask questions! Things that you don’t bring up yourself don’t always get discussed. So ask your doctor!!! Here are a few important questions you can ask related to breast health and mammograms:
- What is my risk for breast cancer based on my medical history?
- When should I begin mammogram screenings?
- How often should I get a mammogram?
- What can I do to prepare for my mammogram?
- Would you please perform a clinical breast exam today?
Remember that your doctor is being paid handsomely for their time with you, so ask all your questions! You are TOO IMPORTANT — to us and to so many others — to stay silent and miss out on critical services that impact your health.
DOES INSURANCE COVER MAMMOGRAMS FOR FREE?
If you have health insurance, then you will want to refer to your benefits summary for the specifics on what your plan covers. However, here's some general information about coverage based on the type of plan you have:
- Group and Private Insurance Plans – If you are 40 or older, the Affordable Care Act requires your insurer to cover mammogram screenings with no co-payment for group, private, and individual plans.
- Medicaid – Women who qualify for Medicaid based on their state’s guidelines are entitled to the same screening and preventive services as women covered by private insurance under the ACA.
- Medicare – Medicare Part B covers annual screenings at no cost for women 40 and over.
- TriCare – This public program available to military personnel and their dependents covers screenings for women 40 and older as well as BRCA genetic counseling and chemoprevention — with cost-sharing to the individual. Out of pocket costs vary based on the level of coverage and active duty status.
If you end up having out-of-pocket costs for your mammogram, be sure to use your Health Savings Account (or HSA)! Put money aside each month into this account for future medical costs so you're always prepared.
FREE AND LOW-COST MAMMOGRAMS IF YOU ARE UNINSURED OR UNDERINSURED
We get it. There are a lot of important things vying for your budget dollars. If your health insurance doesn’t cover the cost of a mammogram or if you are currently uninsured, you still have options! One of the best things you can do to find options is to Google “Free or low-cost mammograms near me” to see what resources are available to you. In addition, there are several options that you can explore for free and low-cost mammograms.
- The National Breast Cancer Foundation – The Foundation partners with medical facilities across the nation to provide free mammograms and care services to underserved women.
- Susan G. Komen Foundation – The organization’s affiliate network is the nation’s largest private funder of community-based breast health education and screening and treatment programs. Find your local affiliate to learn what’s available to you.
- CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program – Centers for Disease Control provides breast and cervical cancer screenings and diagnostics to low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women across the US. Learn more about if you qualify for their program.
- YWCA – Not all locations provide services, but some do! It’s worth doing some research to see whether your local YWCA chapter offers affordable mammograms.
- Local Imaging Centers – During the month of October, for Breast Cancer Awareness, many local imaging centers offer reduced rates on screenings. You can search for a local mammography center on the FDA website.
Take advantage of the resources available to you, and get screened! Let’s help give cancer the boot by showing ourselves that our health matters. If you have daughters, wouldn’t you want someone to give them this advice, too?
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