Mammograms are critical when it comes to detecting breast cancer. If you have health insurance, getting a mammogram is generally covered either in part or in full. If you don't have insurance, though, you'll likely have to pay for it on your own.

On average, the test costs around $150, not including the additional fee for the radiologist. Those costs can be such a financial burden that some women skip the test. That decision can carry big consequences.

However, help is available if you know where to look. For example, consider community health organizations in your area. Many offer free or sliding scale services.

In addition, more than 60 percent of U.S. hospitals and their affiliated organizations and medical practices are nonprofit institutions with charity care programs. Find out what options may be available and whether you meet eligibility requirements. Many nonprofit hospitals receive funding from state and federal governments that help make it possible for them to offer free or low-cost services.

Other resources include:

  • American Cancer Society (ACS). Use their website or call 1-800-277-2345. The ACS also operates the National Cancer Information Center, which provides information on free or inexpensive mammograms listed by ZIP code. Call 1-800-422-6237 for more details.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Find out more about the CDC's National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program.
  • American Breast Cancer Foundation. For those who are uninsured or underinsured, the foundation's Key to Life Breast Cancer Screening Assistance Program provides breast cancer testing. You can find out more by calling the toll-free enrollment hotline at 1-877-539-2543.
  • Susan G. Komen for the Cure. This organization has affiliates around the country. Find the one nearest you to see what services it offers.

Looking ahead, remember that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. At that time, there are likely to be more organizations offering free screenings. Check with Planned Parenthood, major for-profit medical centers and other organizations.

Wherever you go, make sure the provider has a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) certificate and accreditation by the American College of Radiology (ACR). This should be clearly displayed. Be sure to check the expiration date to verify that the facility is still in good standing.