A More Comfortable Mammogram? Yes.

One of the many myths about mammograms is that they hurt — and your breast size affects the intensity. While mammograms do cause compression, similar to a blood pressure cuff, which may result in a bit of discomfort, they should not be painful or a reason for skipping this important screening. In fact, breast cancer mortality rates have dropped 30 percent since doctors started using them.

A woman's breast size also has no effect. However, other factors such as menstrual cycle or caffeine consumption could cause breast tenderness. So what happens if you do feel pain? Tell your technologist immediately. 

During your visit, a technologist will position your breast between two plastic plates and compress the plates to take a picture. The technologist can work with you to better position your breast if you feel any discomfort. With 3D mammography, the machine rotates in an arc around the compressed breast, capturing multiple images from different angles. For some women, this is a more comfortable experience. Each compression takes about 10 to 20 seconds, with the entire screening taking about 20 minutes.

Knowing some women skip receiving a mammogram altogether because they are worried it will hurt shows an even greater need for women to be aware of their options. Enhanced mammography technology designed to be more patient-friendly with features like personalized compression and soft breast paddles—even spa-like suites to help you relax during your mammogram—do exist!

The next time you speak to your health care provider about getting your mammogram, ask them about all of your options. But remember, the only thing worse than getting a mammogram is not getting one. Mammograms save lives, and if you suffer from mammogram anxiety, consider bringing a friend or loved one with you to your next visit. You may just be the reminder they need to get one of their own.


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