Talk to twenty women who have had more than one mammogram in their life, and you will get several different answers to the question: “Is a mammogram painful?”
Uncomfortable and scary may be a common answer. A few might say painful, but it only lasted a few seconds. Others may say it was no big deal. Anxiety about the test, your personal pain threshold, and the technician all play a huge part in a woman’s perspective relative to their mammogram.
Let’s discover a few tips to reduce any discomfort during a mammogram, and review why a mammogram should be an essential part of a woman’s health plan.
The Value of Mammograms
Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women, so early diagnosis is crucial. A mammogram takes about 20 minutes from start to finish to:
- Identify cancer
- Compare any changes in breast tissue from past mammograms
The latest recommendations say that women 40-44 have the option of having the exam. From 45-54 it should be done annually, and women 55-74 every two years. Any woman with a high risk, like family history, should begin at 25.
There is no reason to be frightened of the exam. The value of early detection far outweighs a few minutes of angst.
Factors That Might Cause Discomfort During a Mammogram
A mammogram uses low dose X-rays to take a picture of breast tissue. During the exam each breast is placed between two plates. They help keep the breast in place, and the compression gives the technician a clear image. Normally two pictures are taken of each breast at different angles, although more may be prescribed.
The technician plays a huge part in your comfort vs discomfort, both physically and emotionally. You are in control, so communicate with the tech if you are experiencing any real pain or are anxious. A sensitive technician will walk you through the process regardless if it is your very first mammogram or your tenth.
Larger breasts can be more difficult to get into position and this may cause some discomfort.
In addition, breasts can be tender if the exam is performed prior to a woman’s period, and cysts can cause some pain during compression.
Steps to Reduce Any Discomfort
Anxiety can play a role in how much discomfort a woman experiences during a mammogram. The first step is to relax as much as possible. Some other tips include:
- Schedule the mammogram about a week after a period when there should be little to no tenderness.
- Avoid or reduce caffeine drinks prior to the test.
- Bring a friend or relative with you. They can be there just for support, or to have an exam at the same time.
- Take an anti-inflammatory medication like Advil or Aleve prior to the test.
- Delay the exam if you are breastfeeding.
- Let the technician know about breast implants or benign cysts as they can cause some additional discomfort.
The American Cancer Society says a mammogram is the most important tool for detecting breast cancer, and we agree. Contact Women’s Pavilion of South Mississippi to set up your appointment today!