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Is It Time for a Mammogram?

Breast cancer screenings save lives

You may already know that 1 in 8 women will have breast cancer in their lifetime. Getting a mammogram can help find breast cancer early, when it's easier to treat and cure. 

VA recommends that all women talk with their doctor at age 40 about when to begin getting yearly mammograms. VA also offers breast cancer risk assessment to women including those who may have had toxic exposure. You should share any risk factors, such as a family history of breast cancer, with your primary care provider.

What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is an x-ray of your breast. It allows doctors to look for changes in breast tissue that may not be felt during a breast exam. If an abnormality is found, more tests may be needed to determine if it is cancer.  

Research shows that women who have regular mammograms are more likely to have breast cancer found earlier. They are less likely to need aggressive treatments, like a mastectomy or chemotherapy, and are more likely to be cured.

When do you need a mammogram?

The risk of breast cancer increases with age. That's why it's crucial for women to get regular mammograms. VA recommends following the American Cancer Society's breast cancer screening guidelines:

  • At age 40: Talk with your doctor about the right time to begin screening

  • By age 45: Begin yearly mammograms

  • At age 55: Get a mammogram every other year or continue yearly mammograms depending on your preference and risk factors

Transgender women who have been on hormone therapy for more than 5 years and transgender men who still have breasts should follow the same recommendations above.

What can you expect during your mammogram visit?

VA offers on-site mammography at more than 70 medical centers, including 3D mammograms.

During your mammogram appointment, a technologist will position your breast on a plastic X-ray shelf. When you're in position, a second plate will slowly come down and compress your breast while the X-ray is taken. You'll feel pressure for a couple of seconds, and you'll be asked to hold your breath during this time.

Usually, 2 X-rays are taken of each breast. The exam takes less than 15 minutes. You'll get your results from your healthcare provider at a later date.

My HealtheVet and mammograms

Veterans with a Premium My HealtheVet account can view their mammogram results in a Blue Button report under 'radiology.' You can also see your radiologist’s notes from this screening. 

Mammograms don't prevent breast cancer, but they can save your life by finding breast cancer as early as possible. Contact your health care team with a Secure Message to discuss the best time for your breast cancer screening.

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Read More

Women Veterans Health Care (
What to Expect When You Have a Mammogram (Video, Veterans Health Library)
Breast Cancer Screening for Veterans with Toxic Exposure (PDF)

Updated October 25, 2023