How to convince a loved one to get screened for breast cancer

1 in 8 might develop breast cancer, and early detection can be key - make sure you and those you love get screened.

Violet Bauske, for Beaumont
Sometimes you might be in the position to nudge a loved one into getting a mammogram.

You probably have at least one friend or relative who has battled breast cancer. One in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives.

Despite the statistics, many women still do not get mammograms, a screening that can help detect cancer early.

“We know annual screening mammograms save lives. Everyone is busy and we all put things off. Having an annual mammogram should be a priority for every woman. When we catch cancer early, our team of experts can treat the disease more effectively,” Beaumont radiologist Dr. Murray Rebner said.

Sometimes you might be in the position to nudge a loved one into getting a mammogram. This can be a challenge. Some women have a complicated relationship with their body, neglect their own health or have concerns about the screening. They are also often busy caring for others — juggling the needs of their children, spouses and careers.

It might be enough to simply tell your loved one she is due for a mammogram. Express your concern for her health and offer to bring her to an appointment. This affects you too, so remind her of that. Arm yourself with basic information to anticipate any concerns she might have. Here are a few common reasons women avoid getting mammograms:

It hurts

You might be surprised by how many women avoid mammograms out of fear that the procedure will be too painful. It’s true there can be discomfort while the breast is being imaged. However, the discomfort is brief and the rewards outweigh any discomfort.

With advances in digital mammography and the addition of 3D (tomosynthesis) mammography, discomfort levels have been greatly reduced.

If you are talking to an older woman, it’s possible the mammogram she remembers from 20 years ago was much more painful than the mammogram she will get today.

Fear of diagnosis

Because breast cancer is so common, some women just assume they will get bad news and would rather not know. This anxiety is understandable but should not prevent them from getting a mammogram.

Remind your loved ones most lumps are not cancerous. If a lump is cancerous, early detection (at stage 1) means the cancer can be treated right away, likely resulting in a five-year survival rate of 98-100%.

No family history

More than 75% of women with breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease.

That means every woman still has a 1 in 8 chance of getting the disease.

I’m too young

If you have a first-degree relative with breast cancer, your doctor might tell you to begin mammograms earlier — 10 years prior to the age your relative was diagnosed, or by age 40, whichever comes first. So, if your mother was diagnosed at age 40, you would begin yearly mammograms at 30. If her diagnosis was at 60, you would begin yearly mammograms at age 40.

Oftentimes, women younger than 40 don’t see themselves as being at risk. This is not the case, especially if you have a family connection.

I don’t have time

At a reputable clinic specializing in imaging, the actual mammogram only takes 10-15 minutes. Even people with the busiest schedules can spare 15 minutes. Many locations will also offer evening and weekend appointments, some with same-day or walk-in availability.

It’s too expensive

The cost of health care is a legitimate concern; however, most insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid cover the cost of a screening mammogram.

Since September 2010, the Affordable Care Act has required all new health insurance plans to cover screening mammograms every 1-2 years for women ages 40 and older. You will be more likely to receive coverage for earlier mammograms (before 40) if your doctor diagnoses you to be at high risk.

Remember, finding breast cancer at an early stage typically means better, less aggressive treatment options and improves your chance of survival. If a mammogram is needed, make sure your loved ones aren’t making excuses. Encourage them to make time for themselves and their health.

About 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. However, more and more women are surviving the diagnosis due to better treatments, early detection and increased awareness. Better understand your risk of developing breast cancer in just a few minutes with Beaumont’s free online risk assessment at Your answers to questions about ancestry, age, lifestyle, family history and other risk factors related to the development of breast cancer will help you be more proactive when it comes to annual screenings and genetic counseling.