Mammograms sport breast cancer in early stages

The statistics can be scary: 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. The good news is when caught early, breast cancer is treatable. Mammograms are the No. 1 way to spot breast cancer in its earliest stages.

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast with physicians looking for tumors or anything else that looks suspicious. Women without a family history of breast cancer should have their first mammogram at age 40. The test should be repeated annually since radiologists look at previous images if they have questions. If a radiologist sees anything suspicious during a mammogram, additional tests can be done, including an ultrasound that provides a better look at the breast.

According to the National Cancer Institute, randomized clinical trials and other studies have shown that regular mammograms have reduced the number of deaths from breast cancer among women ages 40 to 74. Since mammograms are considered cancer screenings, most insurers, including Medicare, cover the entire cost.

If you have not had a mammogram before, here is what you can expect. The test takes about 15 minutes and you will be asked to undress from the waist up. You will also be asked to not use deodorants or antiperspirants on the day of your test since ingredients in those products can make it harder for a mammogram to read.

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