Where to Find Low-Cost or Free Mammograms

Options for when cost gets in the way of this important screening

Mammograms are an important part of staying healthy, especially if you’re over 40 or have significant risk factors for breast cancer. That being said, cost can be a barrier for some.

The average cost for a screening mammogram ranges from about $100 to $250. A diagnostic mammogram can be more expensive, depending on what your healthcare provider orders.

The Affordable Care Act requires health plans to fully cover the cost of a screening mammogram every one or two years for women over 40. Medicare and Medicaid cover them as well.

However, if you aren’t insured or don’t meet the criteria for coverage, that doesn’t mean you have to go without. A number of options are available for free or low-cost mammograms.

This article will outline various resources you can explore for more information on free or low-cost mammograms in your area.

A woman undergoing a mammogram

Echo / Getty Images

National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) runs the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, which provides low-income, uninsured, and underserved women with access to screening and diagnostic services for breast and cervical cancer. 

This program is available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, six U.S. territories, and 13 Native American/Alaska Native tribal organizations. You can get these mammograms through your state’s Medicaid benefits. Pelvic exams and Pap smears are also available through this program.

Local Support Organizations

Several national cancer support organizations offer financial assistance or access to free mammograms. If you aren't covered by Medicare, you have a low income, or you’re uninsured, check with these organizations for help:

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Programs

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, many facilities offer free or low-cost mammograms every October. Call your local imaging centers and ask what they may be offering.

One large nationwide organization that offers this is the YWCA through their Encore Plus Program. They also have services year-round.

Check Out the Breast Cancer Community

Many options for free mammograms come and go, and it can be hard to find out when and where they will be provided. An excellent option for many people is to ask questions on social media. Many breast cancer advocates (often survivors themselves) are passionate about spreading the word about free and low-cost procedures.

There are many breast cancer groups on Facebook, as well as communities associated with several of the organizations. Another good place to hear the latest news—such as the availability of free mammograms—is on Twitter. You can find the breast cancer community by using the hashtag #BCSM, which stands for breast cancer social media.

Does Free Mean Low Quality?

Free or discounted mammograms must be done with the same quality and care as full-price breast screening. Just because the service is free does not mean that the quality is low.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does annual inspections at clinics that offer mammography. They check up on the machines and all the staff that are associated with their mammography program.

You can easily search for FDA-approved mammography providers by zip code, state, city, or name of facility. Once you find the facility closest to you, call and ask about low-cost and free mammograms.

Mammogram or MRI?

While magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the most sensitive for detecting breast cancer, it can lead to many false positives and it is very expensive. Insurance usually only covers these for people who are high risk—those who have a 20% or greater lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.

Mammograms are still considered the best screening for breast cancer in those who have an average risk of the disease.

If you have a lump or other breast cancer symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor rather than get a free screening. Other tests may be needed to rule out or confirm breast cancer.

In addition, supplemental screening with breast ultrasound or fast MRI may be recommended if you have dense breasts. Increased breast density carries a higher risk of breast cancer while also making tumors more difficult to see on mammography.

Fast MRI is considered is more sensitive in detecting breast cancers than the combination of mammogram and ultrasound.

Presently, screening mammograms miss roughly 20% of breast cancers. If you need a fast MRI, talk with your healthcare provider about the best way to increase the chances of your insurance paying for it—coverage is not standard.

Summary

Mammograms are a safe and effective way to help screen for and detect breast cancer, especially before you can feel a lump. They can be expensive, especially if you don’t have insurance, but there are a variety of low-cost and free mammogram services available. Talk to your healthcare provider about your financial needs; they might be able to work out payment plans with imaging centers or know of resources in your community.

A Word From Verywell

As a screening test, mammograms are designed for people who are asymptomatic (do not have any signs or symptoms of breast cancer). For those who are symptomatic, they’re considered diagnostic, and insurance companies aren’t required to pay the full cost.

Regardless of the reason, the price tag shouldn't deter you from having a mammogram. There are a variety of options and resources to help you find affordable care—consider getting in touch with a cancer center social worker to help you find services.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much does a breast mammogram cost without insurance?

    It depends on where you live (the cost of living) and whether you get a 2D or 3D mammogram. On average, the cost can range from $80 to $120 or higher.

  • Do you have to be a certain age to get a free mammogram?

    If you are over 40, you can get a free mammogram, according to the Affordable Care Act. Many free or reduced-cost programs also require you to be 40 years of age or older.

  • Is a mammogram considered a preventative service?

    Yes, it is considered such under the Affordable Care Act.

  • Can you get low-cost or free 3D mammograms?

    Some insurance companies cover these and some imaging centers offer free or low-cost 3D mammograms. A 3D mammogram includes more images than the standard procedure, but it's not clear whether these tests are better than a standard 2D mammogram.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Susan G. Komen. Find an affiliate.

  2. Food and Drug Administration. Mammography facilities.

  3. Susan G. Komen. Options for women at higher risk.

  4. Bakker MF, de Lange SV, Pijnappel RM, et al. Supplemental MRI screening for women with extremely dense breast tissue. New Engl J Med. 2019;381:2091-2102. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1903986

  5. National Cancer Institute. Mammograms.

  6. CostHelperHealth. How much does a mammogram cost?

  7. Health Resources and Services Administration. Women’s preventive services guidelines.

Additional Reading
Originally written by
Pam Stephan
Pam Stephan is a breast cancer survivor.
Learn about our editorial process