Mammograms can save lives

Women 40 and older should start annual mammogram screenings, even when no symptoms of breast cancer are present. These images can help your care team screen for breast cancer or make a diagnosis after an initial screening.

Types of mammograms

Screening mammograms

Mammograms of this type are primarily for women who have no breast condition symptoms, no prior history of breast cancer, and no prior lumpectomies. The images can show small tumors up to two years before you or your doctor can feel them during a breast exam.

Diagnostic mammograms

This type of mammogram is often recommended by your healthcare provider when your provider notices changes in your breast tissue based on a screening mammogram, or if you have had a previous breast cancer diagnosis. If you have recently discovered any lumps, pain, drainage, soreness or sensitivity, talk to your healthcare provider about a diagnostic mammogram. A diagnostic mammogram can show the detail of smaller areas, different angles of breast tissue, or other variations.


Get a mammogram
Take precautions while pregnant

Tell your physician or the technologist performing the exam if there is a chance that you are pregnant. Your doctor may postpone the exam to reduce the possible risk of exposing your baby to radiation.

Grants can help you pay for a mammogram

Typically, your insurance company will pay for mammograms as screenings to prevent illness. If you do not have insurance and cannot afford a mammogram, you may qualify for grants. Our programs to provide breast screening for uninsured community members are available through a collaboration with Novant Health breast health services, Novant Health Foundation, and individual and corporate donors.

Our experts are working to protect your health

At Novant Health Imaging, our skilled technologists have advanced training in breast imaging and are certified in mammography. Our programs have accreditation from the American College of Radiology.

Answers to your questions about breast health screenings

Get answers to some of the most common questions about breast health screenings at Novant Health, and our most comprehensive answers.


Current recommendations suggest starting annual screening at age 40. Patients who have a mom or sister with premenopausal breast cancer should begin the screening process ten years before the age of a family member’s diagnosis. For example, if Mom was diagnosed at age 45, you should start screening at age 35.

Screening mammograms are for women 40 and older, scheduling an annual breast cancer screening without any breast concerns.

Diagnostic mammography is for women experiencing problems reported to their doctors for a close follow-up after having breast cancer or a lumpectomy. Diagnostic mammography requires a doctor's order.

You can prepare for your mammogram by following the below suggestions:

  • Do not use deodorant, powder, or lotion under your arms or on your breast before your mammogram
  • Wear a blouse or top that is easy to remove
  • Be prepared to complete a series of questions about your medical history
  • Inform your technologists if you have breast implants

During your mammogram, your breasts will be compressed gently but firmly to provide a clear picture. This compression can be uncomfortable for some women but does not last very long. After your mammogram, you may have some skin discoloration due to the compression. This discoloration is temporary and normal. You can always speak to your technologists about any concerns you may have.

Screening mammograms for women 40 and older, do not require referrals or orders. But you do need to have an established relationship with a primary care physician or OBGYN to receive your results and follow-up with you if needed. Diagnostic mammograms require a referral from your healthcare provider. Speak to your primary care provider (PCP) or women’s health professional (OB-GYN) for guidance on your specific needs.

An ultrasound exam is used in conjunction with a mammogram for patients age 30 and older who may have a suspicious lump. The ultrasound will determine if the mammogram is showing a cystic or solid mass. Women younger than 30 are required to have an ultrasound exam rather than a mammogram to complete studies unless the radiologist decides it’s necessary to receive a mammogram.

If you have breast health concerns such as lumps, drainage, or sensitivity, you should speak to your primary care provider (PCP) or women’s health professional (OB-GYN) before scheduling your upcoming mammogram. These breast concerns can appear for a variety of reasons and may impact an effective screening. Your PCP or OB-GYN can address your concerns and help you schedule your mammogram.

Most insurance plans cover a screening mammogram within one or two years of your last mammogram. Deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses vary per insurance company for diagnostic mammograms. It’s important to call your insurance company to see if your mammogram is covered.

Many of our facilities have support from grant programs to help cover the cost of mammograms for those who are uninsured. Please call us to see if you qualify:

  • Greater Charlotte area: 704-384-5250; en espanol: 704-384-8202
  • Triad area: 336-397-6017

Any vaccine can result in temporary swelling of the lymph nodes, which may distort your screening mammogram results. If you are getting vaccinated, we encourage you to schedule your mammogram six weeks after your second COVID-19 vaccine dose to ensure accurate results. However, if you or your healthcare provider have a breast-related concern, do not delay getting your diagnostic exam.