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Breast

Your breasts,
your future,
your choice.

african woman looking at camera

Why get a mammogram?

Breasts may not be a go-to conversation topic, but talk leads to action and action is how we manage our breast health. So let's talk about them!

Get help scheduling a mammogram

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Here comes the uncomfortable (but necessary) part of the conversation.

In the United States, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. The good news is women have a way to fight back. Regular breast cancer screening — like mammograms and breast ultrasounds — is the best way to find breast cancer early when it is easier to treat. Here are three reasons you should get screened. 

woman talking to doctor in medical clinic
  • Breast screenings can detect breast cancer before you can feel a lump. Knowing what’s normal for you, whether it’s through monthly self-exams or just noticing any change, is important. So is the early detection that a screening provides. It’s not one or the other. For the best outcome, it’s both. 

  • Breast cancer has a 99% cure rate when detected early. Annual mammograms can’t prevent you from getting breast cancer, but they can give you the best chance of surviving it.

  • Early detection reduces the risk of needing a mastectomy. When breast cancer is detected early, it is often possible to remove all cancerous cells with a procedure called a lumpectomy, rather than having to remove the entire breast.

Breast Cancer Affects
Black Women Differently

At any age, Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer.

Black women are 40% more likely to die from breast cancer than women of other races, and those younger than 50 are 50% more likely to die. Compared to other groups, Black women are at increased risk for more aggressive forms of breast cancer, such as triple-negative breast cancer and inflammatory breast cancer, which can be harder to treat. They are also more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age.

Black women are more likely to be affected by other risk factors.

Researchers found that Black women are more likely to have diabetes, heart disease, and obesity which are all risk factors for breast cancer. Additionally, certain products marketed to Black women may contain ingredients that could be linked to a higher risk of cancer, including hair relaxers and Brazilian blowout treatments. Whether the factors are individual, social, community, or environmental-related, Black women are at higher risk.

Black women are less likely to have access to health services.

Whether they are uninsured, underinsured, or simply do not have access to trusted providers and services in their community, Black women, more often than other groups, don’t get the screening, diagnosis, and treatment they need, when they need it. So when they get a breast cancer diagnosis, they often get it at a later stage when the cancer is more advanced.

Change the odds

Develop your own screening plan.

Because Black women are more likely to be diagnosed at younger ages and more advanced stages of the disease, it’s recommended they start screening early. While most women will begin screening at age 40, Black women and those with known risk factors may want to begin screening even earlier. Talk to your doctor about your risk and create a screening plan that makes sense for you.

A supplemental screening may be necessary

More aggressive types of breast cancer are often found with supplemental screenings, such as a breast ultrasound or a breast MRI. Women who have dense breast tissue may need a supplemental screening as well. Speak with your doctor about your risk factors, including race, and if you should get a supplemental screening.

Starting in January 2024, most insurers, including Medicaid, are required to cover all supplemental screenings at no cost.

Facts About Breast Cancer and Mammograms

Getting screened annually can help find breast cancer earlier when it’s easiest to treat and survive. Don’t let bad information, like these common myths, get between you and your health.

Fact: The likelihood of getting breast cancer can increase as we age, but it can strike at any age. Black women in particular are more likely to get breast cancer when they are younger, and those with higher risk may need to begin screening as early as their 30s. As a Black woman, it’s never too early to take charge of your health and speak to your doctor about a screening plan.

Fact: If you are 40 or older, you can schedule a mammogram without a doctor’s referral.

Fact: While having a close relative with breast cancer increases your risk, most people diagnosed with breast cancer do not have a family history. Only 10–15% of those diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of the disease. While 40 is the recommended age to start screening for most women, you may need to start screening earlier if you have certain risk factors, such as a family history of breast cancer. Talk to your doctor about your risk.

Fact: Most people who get a mammogram won’t be diagnosed with cancer. Only 2—4 mammograms out of 1,000 lead to a breast cancer diagnosis.

Fact: Advances in technology have made mammograms more accurate with very low doses of radiation, making the benefits far outweigh the risks. The compression experienced during a mammogram is not dangerous to the breast and cannot cause an existing cancer to spread.

Fact: The biggest risk for getting breast cancer is having breasts. Getting a mammogram is a regular part of preventive health care. Breast cancer is not limited to affecting certain groups of women or those with family history. Some other things that do not cause breast cancer include:

  • Breast injury, squeezing or pinching the breasts
  • Bigger breasts
  • Consuming sugar
  • Carrying a cell phone in your bra
  • Working night shifts
  • Bras with underwire
  • Antiperspirants and deodorants
  • Nipple piercings
  • In vitro fertilization or abortion

Fact: Dense breast tissue is normal and does not cause cancer. It’s simply the difference between the amount of fatty and fibrous tissue in your breast. Dense breast tissue may make it harder to see breast cancers on a mammogram, so doctors often recommend a supplemental screening with MRI or breast ultrasound.

What to Expect When
Getting a Mammogram

Undergoing Mammography Scan

What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. A mammogram offers a view of the breast that can show abnormalities before they are apparent to you or your doctor. Some facilities offer a 3D mammogram, which combines multiple breast X-rays to create a 3-dimensional picture of the breast.

How does it feel?

Some women find mammograms uncomfortable, some even find them painful, and for others, the procedure doesn't bother them at all. No matter what your experience, know that the technician is trained to provide gentle care, and any discomfort will last only a few seconds.

The procedure

  • On the day of your mammogram, don’t apply deodorant, antiperspirant, powders, lotions or perfumes on or under your breasts or underarms as these can cause white spots on the image

  • You’ll need to remove your top and bra, so wearing a skirt or pants may be easiest. The facility will give you a gown to wear. You’ll also want to remove necklaces and any large earrings and pull back longer hair.

  • Be sure to tell your radiology technologist if you have noticed any changes to your breasts, have implants, are breastfeeding or might be pregnant. Also, let them know if you have trouble standing or holding still for 30 seconds at a time.

  • To get a high-quality picture, your breast must be compressed for a short period. You'll stand in front of the machine and the technologist will position your breast on the machine. A plastic upper plate is then lowered to compress your breast while the technologist takes an X-ray.

  • Generally, two views of each breast are taken for a screening mammogram. For some women, such as those with larger breasts or implants, more images may be taken. The technologist will help you change position so your breast is compressed at a different angle before another X-ray is taken. The machine may move in an arc if you are getting a 3D mammogram.

  • The procedure typically takes less than 20 minutes, with actual breast compression lasting only 10–15 seconds for each image.

Adapted from American Cancer Society

Free and Low-Cost Mammograms

No insurance? Underinsured? No problem. Several programs in Nevada provide free mammograms to those who are uninsured, cannot afford screening, and may not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid coverage.o problem. Several programs in Nevada provide free mammograms to those who are uninsured, cannot afford screening, and may not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid coverage.

Do you prefer one-on-one help getting a mammogram? Contact Nevada Cancer Coalition’s ThriveNV support team by calling 775-451-1670 ext 106.
Or complete this form.

The Women’s Health Connection

The WHC program provides breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to low-income women who are uninsured or underinsured. (Underinsured means the cost of care is not affordable, even with insurance.) If breast or cervical cancer is diagnosed, Women's Health Connection patients are eligible for treatment through Medicaid.
Call: 844-469-4934.
Age Eligibility: Up to age 64.
Income Eligibility: Annual income up to 250% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). For a single individual, 250% of FPL is $36,450 for 2024. Check this year's maximum income here.

Nevada Health Centers

Nevada Health Centers operates the Mammovan — a mobile mammography van that travels all over Nevada. Screenings are provided to all women regardless of economic status. The cost of screening may be covered thanks to generous donors.
The Mammovan visits Nevada Health Centers clinic locations and a variety of other community locations. Check the Mammovan schedule to find stops in your area.
Or call: 877-581-6266 (option 1)

Dignity Health

Engelstad Foundation R.E.D. Rose Program at Dignity Health offers mammograms for free with no need for medical insurance for people in the Las Vegas area.
Call: 702-620-7858

Medicaid

Medicaid covers breast cancer screening and imaging services for Nevadans starting at age 40, or starting at age 35 for those who are considered high risk. High risk within Medicaid's guidelines is defined as one or more of the following conditions:

  • Personal history of breast cancer.
  • Personal history of biopsy – proven beginning breast disease.
  • A mother, sister or daughter had breast cancer.
  • A woman who has not given birth prior to age 30.

Imaging following a screening mammogram is also covered when recommended by a healthcare provider, including breast ultrasound and MRI. Diagnostic mammograms, which are done when a lump or other concern is found, are covered, are not limited by age or sex, and do not require prior authorization.

Some Medicaid insurers will pay you to get screened regularly, which is an incentive to take care of your health.

What does Medicaid cover? dhcfp.nv.gov/Members/BLU/MCOMain/

Am I eligible for Medicaid?
To be eligible for Nevada Medicaid, you must be a resident of the state of Nevada, a U.S. national, citizen, permanent resident, or legal alien, in need of health care/insurance assistance, whose financial situation would be characterized as low-income or very low income. You must also be one of the following:

  • Pregnant, or
  • Be responsible for a child 18 years of age or younger, or
  • Blind, or
  • Have a disability or a family member in your household with a disability, or
  • Be 65 years of age or older.

To qualify, you must have an annual household income (before taxes) that is below a certain amount. For a person living alone, the maximum household income per year to qualify for Medicaid is $19,392 (2023 data). See limits for households of all sizes here.

You can apply for Medicaid benefits here: accessnevada.dwss.nv.gov/public/landing-page.

Medicare

Generally, Medicare is for people 65 or older. You may be able to get Medicare earlier if you have a disability, End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant), or ALS (also called Lou Gehrig’s disease). Medicare has four parts: Part A (hospital insurance), Part B (Medicare insurance), Part C (Medicare Advantage plans) and Part D (drug coverage).

Eligibility and premium costs vary for each part. Learn more about each part here.

Medicare Part A covers screening mammograms at no cost and diagnostic mammograms with some cost sharing. Part B covers a mammogram once for women ages 35-39, called a baseline mammogram. For women 40 or older, Part B covers screening mammograms once per year and diagnostic mammograms if medically necessary. Medicare usually covers medically necessary breast ultrasounds when your health provider orders them.

Learn more about Medicare coverage for mammograms.

Health plans in Nevada are required to cover the cost of breast cancer screening, but some plans not covered within the Affordable Care Act may have a co-pay or cost-sharing requirement. You can contact your health insurance company to find out what is covered and if there are costs.

In Nevada, most health insurance plans are required to cover breast imaging tests—such as mammograms, ultrasounds or breast MRI—at the age most appropriate, when medically necessary based on risk and family history and referred by a health care provider. This includes imaging for annual screening , supplemental imaging for those at high risk, or diagnostic imaging. These imaging tests are to be provided at no cost to the patient – that means with no deductible, co-payment, co-insurance, or any other cost-sharing required.This law DOES NOT apply to:

  • Federally regulated health plans.
  • ERISA plans, which are self-funded by private industry, such as the Culinary Union.
  • Public Employees’ Benefits Program.
  • Self-insured plans for employees of local governments and school districts.

This law DOES apply to:

  • Individual, group and blanket health insurance policies.
  • Small employer plans.
  • Benefit contracts provided by fraternal benefit societies.
  • Contracts for hospital or medical service.
  • Health care plans of health maintenance organizations and plans issued by managed care organizations.

Questions to ask about insurance coverage for cancer screenings and potential costs

Most health insurance plans will cover breast cancer screening at no cost for those over 40 and at average risk. However, some plans may charge out-of-pocket costs for your screening tests.
Here are some questions you can ask your health insurance company to find out if they pay or reimburse you for most of your medical expenses.

  • Are cancer screening tests covered in full? If not, what will my out-of-pocket costs be?
  • Will my out-of-pocket costs change if I need follow-up visits or more tests after the screening?
  • Are there any preferred doctors, hospitals, or testing facilities I should use for my screening tests?
  • If I use any out-of-network doctors, hospitals, or testing facilities, what will my expected costs be?
  • Do I need to get insurance approval (pre-approval or pre-certification) for any screening tests?

Source: American Cancer Society

How do I know if I am high-risk and could get screened earlier than age 40?

A healthcare provider can review your risk for breast cancer with you and will gather information on your family history of cancer and other details to determine your risk. Some things that may put you at higher risk for breast cancer include:

  • Dense breast tissue
  • Genetic mutation, such as BRCA
  • Radiation to chest wall
  • Family history of breast or ovarian cancer
  • Breast cancer survivor

The Black Women’s Health Study Breast Cancer Risk Calculator allows health professionals to estimate a woman’s risk of developing invasive breast cancer over the next five years. It was created and tested solely on data from U.S. Black women. It can be used to estimate risk and does not predict who may be diagnosed with breast cancer.

You can also take this breast cancer risk assessment tool to your doctor to discuss your risk and when to begin screening.

Provider Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Handout