Do Mammograms Hurt? What to Expect From This Important Screening

Mammogram appointment

Whether you’re preparing for your first mammogram or have had them annually for years, all women have wondered, “Is this going to hurt?”

Beaumont mammography technician Julie Lafata explained one of the most common concerns she hears from women regarding pain is “a metal plate is going to smash my breast.”

“This is not true,” Lafata said. “Mammogram compression paddles are made of acrylic and contoured to achieve the most appropriate compression without causing discomfort.”

These answers to common questions about mammograms and pain can help better prepare women for this important screening so they can have a positive breast imaging experience.

Are mammograms more painful for certain people?

Discomfort during a mammogram procedure varies from patient to patient. Some experience discomfort due to the compression that is applied to the breast. Most women, however, tolerate the exam quite well.

How much pain you feel can vary based on:

  • the size of your breasts
  • timing of the exam related to your menstrual cycle
  • the skill level of your technician and how they position your breast

What can I expect at my mammogram appointment?

What can someone do to reduce any pain or discomfort during a mammogram?

The most important thing a woman who is concerned about pain can do is tell the technician before the imaging begins. The tech can take the time to educate the woman on what to expect and why compression is necessary. If there is pain during the exam, the tech can also try different positioning to reduce discomfort.

Other things you can do to reduce pain include:

  • During and immediately before a period, hormonal swings can increase breast sensitivity. Be mindful of timing when scheduling your mammogram.
  • Tell your technician about any history that may make the exam more painful such as past discomfort during a mammogram, or a history of fibrocystic breasts
  • Stay still during the procedure to ensure clear images and avoid having to repeat parts of the exam

What if I experience pain after the exam?

If there is any discomfort following the exam, talk to your doctor about the use of Tylenol or Motrin, if necessary.

While there may be some discomfort associated with a mammogram, most women tolerate the exam well. Beaumont recommends that all women age 40 and over get an annual screening mammogram.

Detecting breast cancer early means smaller tumors and less involvement of the lymph nodes, giving the woman more options for treatment and increasing the likelihood of a full remission.

view all stories

Schedule a Mammogram

Find A Location Near You

the Breast Health episode

Beaumont HouseCall Podcast

Listen Now