Despite decades of public health awareness about the importance of mammograms, many women are still resistant to getting them. Fear and opposition may be due to persistent myths about mammograms.
Let’s separate myth from reality. Here are five common misunderstandings and the true facts behind them.
Myth 1: No History, No Problem
We hear a lot about the importance of family history in developing all kinds of diseases. But breast cancer doesn’t really follow family lines. About 85 percent of new breast cancer diagnoses are in women with no family history of the disease.
Because of this fact, early detection is critical. You can’t predict your likelihood of getting breast cancer because your mother, grandmother, aunts, or siblings haven’t had it.
Myth 2: Unsafe Radiation
The term “radiation” may strike fear into your heart, but mammograms use a very low dose of radiation that meets worldwide standards for safety. In fact, our world contains radiation all around us, called background radiation. Mammography is a tiny fraction of this everyday radiation.
Myth 3: Miniscule Risk
Some women resist mammograms because they believe the overall risk of developing breast cancer is exceedingly low. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but about 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives.
Your lifetime outlook for breast cancer is dramatically better if you pursue annual mammograms after age 40. Even if you develop cancer, it will be detected early. And early treatment can mean a much better outcome.
Myth 4: Ouch!
If you’ve never had a mammogram, you might be afraid that it hurts. While mammograms do cause some discomfort, it’s minor and brief. Some people compare it to getting a vaccination, because of the short burst of discomfort.
During a mammogram, a technician places each breast, one at a time, between two plastic plates. Images are taken, and later a radiologist examines them. It’s a quick process.
Talk to your doctor if potential pain is of great concern to you, or if you have experienced extreme pain from mammograms in the past. There may be a larger issue going on, like muscle or ligament issues.
In terms of time, mammograms are quite painless. Most appointments take about 20 to 30 minutes, and of that, the actual mammogram is just a few minutes long. It’s time well spent!
Myth 5: Too Much $$$
Definitely don’t put off a mammogram because of the expense. Most insurers cover them as part of your preventive care plan. Marketplace plans listed at Healthcare.gov cover mammograms without copayment or coinsurance every 1 to 2 years for women over 40.