Where to Find Low-Cost or Free Mammograms

Can't afford a mammogram? You do have options!

Mammograms are an important part of safeguarding your health, especially if you're over 40 or have significant risk factors for breast cancer, but they can be expensive. The average cost ranges from about $100 to $250. The Affordable Care Act requires that health plans 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.

Does Free Mean Low-Quality?

Free mammograms and 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 should be low.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does annual inspections at clinics that do 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 by zip code, state, city, or by name of the facility. Once you find the facility closest to you, call and ask about low-cost and free mammograms.

National Breast & Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program

Radiologist helping patient with mammogram
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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have a program called the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program that 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 clinical breast exams and mammograms through your state's Medicaid benefits. Pelvic exams and PAP smears are also available through this program.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, many facilities offer free or low-cost mammogram every October. Some of the large, nationwide facilities that offer this include:

Local Support Organizations

Several national cancer-support organizations offer financial assistance or offer access to free mammograms. If Medicare does not yet cover you, you have a low income, or you're uninsured, check with these organizations for help:

Mammogram or MRI?

While MRIs are the "best test" for detecting breast cancer, they are very expensive and insurance usually only covers these test for people who are high risk (have a 20 percent or more 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.

It's important to note that as a screening test, mammograms are designed for people who are asymptomatic (do not have a breast lump or other signs or symptoms of breast cancer). If you do have symptoms, they're considered diagnostic and insurance companies aren't required to pay the full cost of them.

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

It's also important to note that it's now required that women who have dense breasts—which can only be determined by a mammogram—be informed of that. Having dense breasts can increase the risk of breast cancer while making tumors more difficult to see on mammography. If you have dense breasts, supplemental screening with breast ultrasound or rapid MRI may be recommended.

A Word From Verywell

Do not skip your mammogram because of a lack of money or health insurance. In addition to the options listed above, you may have access to resources based on where you live or work. It may require some phone calls and research (starting with your doctor or a hospital social worker) to find the tests you need at a price you can afford, but it's worth it. After all, breast cancer is more challenging and much more expensive to treat when tumors are more advanced.

If you are concerned that you may have breast cancer and don't know how you could afford treatment, help is available as well. A cancer center social worker in your community can help you find the resources you need.

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