You probably notice a lot of pink around your office or your community in October. It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A time we honor those affected by breast cancer by wearing pink or displaying pink signs of support, and a time when we remind and encourage women to get a mammogram.
Sadly, some women skip regular mammograms because of the cost.
But there are several ways to find free or low-cost breast health screenings and mammograms, including:
- Your primary care doctor and local medical imaging centers
- Breast cancer awareness foundations and programs
- State and local cancer screening services
- YWCA and Planned Parenthood
Read on to learn more about nine free and low-cost options for breast cancer screenings and mammograms.
Making Breast Health a Priority
When you look at the statistics, you’ll better understand why an entire month is dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness. And why finding ways to help women get free or low-cost breast health care is so important.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), breast cancer is the second most common cancer in American women. About 13% of women (1 in 8) will develop breast cancer at some point in life.
In 2019, the ACS estimates over 268,000 cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women. Almost 63,000 cases of early forms of breast cancer will be detected, and close to 42,000 women will die of breast cancer.
Early detection through screenings and mammograms and advances in treatments are the key to more women joining the more than 3.5 million survivors of breast cancer.
Women on Medicaid and Medicare have coverage for breast health care. The Affordable Care Act also mandates coverage of all mammography costs (including co-pays) for women with health insurance who reach a certain age or have risk factors.
But underserved women, along with young, low-income, uninsured, and under-insured women, tend to report cost as a barrier to mammography screening. That’s why it is so important to share information about costs and resources for women to get free and low-cost breast health care.
Finding Free or Low-Cost Mammograms
*Important Note: If you’ve found a lump or have other concerning symptoms, make an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible. Worry about money later. Do not risk your health by waiting weeks or months to find free or low-cost care.
- Your Primary Care Doctor. As mentioned above, women with health insurance (who meet age/risk requirements) or those on Medicare and Medicaid should get free screening mammograms. The problem is that some women don’t realize they won’t have to pay.
- Your Local Imaging Center. Check with your local breast imaging center to see if they offer mammograms for reduced rates at different times throughout the year – including Breast Cancer Awareness month. Certified mammography imaging centers can be found on the FDA website.
- The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. For almost 30 years, the Center for Disease Control’s program has provided diagnostic and treatment support for these two diseases. Qualifying low-income, uninsured, or under-insured women ages 40-64 in the United States can use these services. You can obtain more local information on the program’s interactive map.
- The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Komen Affiliates, in over 120 U.S. cities, fund breast cancer health education, screenings, and treatment for women. To find low-cost breast cancer screening options in your community, call the Komen Breast Cancer Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636). You can also access their interactive map to find local resources.
- The National Mammography Program. The National Breast Cancer Foundation has a guide showing medical facilities and imaging centers in each state offering underserved women breast health screenings, diagnostic services, and treatment. While there are only a few listings for each state, you may find one near you that meets your needs.
- The Breast Cancer Assistance Program. The American Breast Cancer Foundation provides financial support for breast cancer screenings and mammograms for any underserved person – with no age or gender requirements. But funding is limited, and you must qualify for services. As with other programs, don’t assume you won’t be approved. It’s worth applying for any program you are eligible for.
- State and Local Government Websites. A quick online search may help you locate free or low-cost breast health care options in your region or state. Your area may have grant funding or money budgeted to help pay for mammograms and/or diagnostic and treatment services for those who have financial need. Some states (including New York) have specific programs to reduce costs and support breast health care for eligible residents.
- Local YWCA Chapters. Some local Young Women’s Christian Association’s chapters have women’s health initiatives providing financial assistance for breast and cervical cancer screenings. Uninsured and under-insured women who meet program guidelines may receive support for diagnostic services, biopsies, and associated treatment. There is also breast cancer survivor programming available at some YWCA’s.
- Planned Parenthood. You can’t get a mammogram at Planned Parenthood, but you can get a breast exam. If your provider has concerns about the health of your breasts, they’ll provide you with resources and referrals for free or low-cost mammograms or diagnostic services.
Affordable Breast Health Care for All
At this point in time, breast health care should be affordable or free if you qualify for screenings through your health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid.
If you are in an underserved group or if you’re uninsured or under-insured, there are several options to get mammograms or other health care screenings. Utilize the list above to locate free or low-cost services in your region. Or, find programs at the national level aiming to help women obtain preventive care and treatment.
Know someone who needs this information? Please share this resource. If you know of other free or low-cost breast health care options, please let us know.