You may already know mammograms are essential for detecting breast cancer early, but many women hesitate to undergo the screening due to concerns about pain. However, the truth is that mammograms are generally not as painful as others tell you, and there are a few ways you can reduce feelings of discomfort.
Here’s what you need to know about the discomfort associated with mammograms. But first, let’s review why this screening tool is an important part of every woman’s health journey.
A mammogram is a type of medical imaging that is used to detect breast cancer in its early stages. It’s a low-dose X-ray that produces images of your breast tissue.
During the procedure, your breast is compressed between two plates to spread the tissue and make it easier to see abnormalities.
Mammograms are a life-saving tool in the fight against breast cancer as they can detect tumors that may not be palpable during a physical exam. Therefore, medical experts recommend that women over 40 receive a yearly mammogram—although younger women with certain risk factors may also be advised to have the procedure.
Do Mammograms Hurt?
The big concern for many women is the procedure itself. But let’s talk about why you may feel discomfort.
The pain experienced during a mammogram is often caused by the compression of the breast tissue between the two plates. This compression is necessary to get a clear image of the breast tissue and detect any abnormalities. However, the amount of pressure applied can vary depending on the size and density of the breast tissue.
While some women may experience discomfort or mild pain during the procedure, it should only last for a few seconds and before you know it, the procedure is over and you’ve just completed an important step in your health journey.
Is It Possible to Reduce the Discomfort?
You can do a few things to reduce any potential discomfort you may experience during a mammogram.
- For example, schedule your appointment when your breasts are least likely to be tender, such as the week after your period.
- Before the procedure, you may decide to take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever. Consult with your clinician first, however, especially if you take more than one medication.
- Finally, communicate with the technologist performing the mammogram and let her know if you’re experiencing any discomfort. She may be able to adjust the compression or offer additional support to make the procedure more comfortable for you.
At our breast center, you can meet with a care navigator who will answer your questions and even sit with you during the procedure, if you’d like.
Are There Any Risks of Annual Mammograms?
The risks of mammograms are minimal and include a small amount of radiation exposure and the possibility of false positives, which can lead to additional testing and anxiety. However, the benefits of regular mammograms far outweigh the risks.
Remember, mammograms can detect breast cancer early when it is most treatable. Early detection can also lead to less invasive treatment options and a higher chance of survival.
When Should Women Start Getting Mammograms?
The American Cancer Society recommends that women between 40-54 should begin scheduling annual mammograms.
After age 55, women may be able to switch to getting mammograms every two years or continue to get them annually if they choose. Women with a higher risk of breast cancer, such as those with a family history or genetic mutation, for example, may need to start getting mammograms earlier and more frequently.
As every woman is unique, talking to your doctor about your individual risk factors and when to start getting mammograms (and how often) is important.
Schedule Your Mammogram with Confidence
Worried about feeling uncomfortable during a mammogram? Or maybe a loved one hasn’t gone in years and told you, “I refuse to get a mammogram,” due to the pain.
At The Breast Center of Maple Grove, we aim to provide comfortable, compassionate, and advanced screening services to alleviate you and your family’s concerns. In addition, we want to help you receive the support, education, and accurate screenings you need to take the next step in your health journey.
Take a virtual tour of our center today or call us with questions. Our care team is here to support you every step of the way. We also work closely with your healthcare provider to ensure you receive the best services and support possible.
Appointments are available Monday-Friday, 7:30 am-5:00 pm, with extended hours on Tuesday from 7:30 am-8:00 pm. Walk-ins are also welcome!