Do mammograms hurt?

Generally, doctors take great care in ensuring that your mammogram is as comfortable and painless as possible. Some hospitals use Bella Blankets -- soft pads that add cushion without interfering with the image -- with every mammogram. 
During mammography, the breast is flattened or compressed between the film and a plastic plate. Some women do experience discomfort during the procedure, while most report no discomfort. Keep in mind that your breast is actually compressed for less than 30 seconds in most instances. Compression will not harm your breast in any way and is extremely important in obtaining a clear image.

If you have particularly sensitive breasts, it may be best to schedule your mammogram at a time of month when your breasts are least tender. Your menstrual cycle and/or estrogen therapy may affect the sensitivity of your breasts.
Janine L. Carson, MD
Diagnostic Radiology
When it comes to mammograms, every woman has a different experience. In this video, Dr. Jan Carlson describes the test and discusses the steps that can minimize discomfort.
We have never come across a woman who told us that a mammogram felt good. Many women refer to the X-ray machine as a "breast sandwich" machine: one breast at a time is placed between two plates, and then the breast is flattened in order for the technician to get a picture of the entire breast. The procedure can be uncomfortable, even painful, particularly for women with small or especially sensitive breasts. Generally, two pictures of each breast are taken. The actual time needed to take each picture is about five seconds. The entire procedure only takes about 20 minutes. You shouldn't have any lasting pain or marks.
Most women who have had a mammogram will tell you that breast compression is uncomfortable but not painful. It is a good idea, however, to schedule your mammogram when your breasts are least tender -- typically two or three days following the end of your menstrual cycle. You may also want to consider taking a pain reliever to reduce the discomfort.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.