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Mammogram Myths and Facts

This article originally published on Get Healthy Stay Healthy.

In the fight against breast cancer, screening mammograms are a powerful tool. Mammograms — X-ray pictures of the breast — can help reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer among women ages 40 to 70. And getting one regularly is one of the most effective ways to detect breast cancer early. That’s why the National Cancer Institute recommends that women over age 40 have screening mammograms every one to two years.

People often have questions about mammograms, though. Do they expose you to harmful radiation? Is routine screening really necessary? Aren’t mammograms expensive? To help uncover the truth, we’ve dispelled some common mammogram myths:

Myth: Mammograms can only detect signs of cancer when it’s too late to treat it.

Fact: Doctors use mammograms to diagnose cancers at all stages of development.

Myth: Mammograms expose you to dangerous radiation.

Fact: Repeated X-rays are a health hazard. However, mammograms use a very low level of radiation. The danger posed by this level of radiation is very small and the benefits of mammography outweigh the risks.

Myth: Breast self-exams are just as effective as mammograms.

Fact: Breast self-exams (checking your own breasts for lumps and changes), can’t replace regular screening mammograms. Studies have shown that breast self-exam alone is not enough to reduce the number of breast cancer deaths.

Myth: Mammograms are too expensive to have one every year.

Fact: Most private insurance companies cover one mammogram per year, without co-payments or deductibles. Medicare also pays for annual screening mammograms for women age 40 or older. For more information about Medicare coverage, visit www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

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