Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Methodist Breast Center

Mammograms FAQs

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713.441.PINK (7465)

What are the benefits of screening mammography?

Today's high-quality digital screening mammography is the most effective tool available to physicians in detecting breast cancer before lumps can be felt or symptoms of cancer appear. Early detection of breast cancer not only helps provide a woman with more options, but also increases the possibility of a favorable prognosis.

Is there a risk of radiation exposure from having regular mammograms?

The risk of harm from radiation exposure is extremely small, and the risk decreases significantly as a woman ages. The actual exposure of radiation during a mammogram is about equivalent to that of having a dental exam. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates that mammograms not exceed 2 rads (radiation absorbed dose), the unit of measure for radiation exposure. Most mammograms actually deliver a small fraction of that amount and a woman must carefully weigh the risks of not having mammograms against that of this small radiation exposure.

What should a woman expect when having a mammogram?

A woman should avoid using deodorant, lotions, or powder under the arms or on the breasts. A specially-trained registered mammography technologist, will perform the x-ray. Each digital unit has two flat surfaces, or plates, that once lowered will compress each breast for a few seconds. This compression is necessary to produce the best pictures using the lowest amount of radiation possible.

Are mammograms painful?

Some women find the pressure of the plates on their breasts to be uncomfortable or even somewhat painful. Timing your mammogram when your breasts are not tender is important. In premenopausal women, this is usually one week after your menstrual cucle. If you do experience discomfort or pain, tell the mammographer and adjustments can be made to your tolerance.

Who pays for mammography?

Medicare covers mammography screening for women 65 and older every year. Most states now require that health insurance policies offer mammography screening reimbursement.