Do You Need a 3D Mammogram, and Will Your Insurance Cover It?

breast exam

The American Cancer Society says that women 40 to 44 should have the option to get mammograms every year or two years, women ages 45 to 54 should have annual mammograms with those ages 65+ having mammograms at least every two years. For many women, insurance will cover all the cost of a 3D mammogram, especially if you are at high risk for breast cancer.

If you haven’t started your annual screening mammograms yet or if you’re behind on your preventative care, you may not know that River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic offers 3D mammograms, in addition to traditional 2D mammograms.

What Are 3D Mammograms?

A mammogram is an X-ray of your breast that uses a lower dose of radiation than traditional X-rays. With a standard 2D mammogram, X-rays are taken of your breasts from side to side and top to bottom. Three-dimensional mammography—also called digital breast tomosynthesis—uses the same two angles but takes multiple X-rays in an arc that moves around your breast. This creates a 3D image that provides more detail about your breast tissue.

Why You Might Need a 3D Mammogram

It’s important to keep in mind that any screening mammogram is better than no screenings at all. Mammograms are the most common tool doctors use to detect breast cancer at an early stage, which often means it is easier to treat. However, research seems to show that 3D mammograms may detect more cancers, with fewer false positives, than traditional mammograms. Although more research is ongoing, studies to date have shown 3D mammograms may be especially useful for screening women who:

  • Are ages 65 or older
  • Have a higher-than-average risk of breast cancer
  • Have dense breast tissue

Around 50% of women over 40 have dense breasts. These women are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer (for reasons yet unknown). Dense breast tissue can also hide small tumors, because they appear the same on an X-ray.

Most Insurance Covers 3D Mammograms

Whatever type of insurance you have, the Affordable Care Act requires your plan to cover (at no cost to you) an annual screening mammogram once you turn 40. Minnesota state law additionally requires that insurance cover 3D mammograms under the same preventative policy—i.e., no additional cost—if you are at higher risk for breast cancer due to four risk factors:

  • Dense breast tissue
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Previous diagnosis of breast cancer
  • Testing positive for BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations

Medicaid and Medicare plans also cover 3D screening mammograms, and many private insurance plans now cover 3D screening mammograms for all women or for only a small additional cost. Our online price estimator can provide likely estimates for your insurance.

Learn more about mammogram options and other imaging services at River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic or call to schedule an appointment today at (507) 934-7632.

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