35 answers

First-time Mammogram

Hi everyone - I just made an appointment for my first mammogram (nothing is wrong, it's just a baseline) and am really nervous about it. I'm not sure what to expect, how much it will hurt, how long the x-rays will take (i.e. how long is your boob actually squeezed thin, which I've heard is the painful part). Then of course I'm nervous about getting the results too. Can anyone share with me their experiences? I know it will hurt, but just don't know how bad this is going to be...

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So What Happened?™

Thank you to everyone for your help! I had my appointment and honestly - it was not bad at all! There was pressure and some discomfort but I wouldn't even call it pain. The anticipation was much worse. Thanks again for helping me calm my nerves!

Featured Answers

Hi S.,
I have a few jokes, (not what you to hear!) It is not as bad as everyone says, just a little uncomfortable. Get it done, you will be happy you did!

I just had a colonoscpy done and the doctor said, "I don't want to see you for 10 years". I am 55 years old.

Just get it done. You will be happy you did !

Lucy B.


I just had my first one and it was not bad at all.I was also quite worried and nervous,but found it a short and unpleasant experience,but since I had worst expectations,it felt nothing.:-)

I don't have any great advise or experience, but I'm right there with you! I have my first scheduled for next week. Just one of the fun parts of getting older... :)

More Answers

Piece of cake and doesn't hurt. However, as Catherine A. says, don't look at it. You'll think you're going to be National Geographic's next cover model. Surprisingly, they rebound.

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Hi, S. W--

Attached below is an article about mammogram and an excerpt from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Also, a comment from Dr. Joseph Mercola.

Mammograms Don't Save Lives

Adding an annual mammogram to a careful physical examination of the breasts does not improve breast cancer survival rates over getting the examination alone, new research reports. This finding is particularly important since annual mammograms, beginning as early as age 40, is an almost universal practice.

Interestingly, although mammography does leads to the discovery of smaller, earlier stage tumors, it still does not improve breast cancer survival rates over examination alone.

One possible reason for a lack of survival benefit from mammograms "is that treatment of breast cancer has improved to such an extent that there is no longer any benefit from screening," the study's authors report. In addition, the results "suggest another option for screening women over the age of 50 years: annual physical examination and the teaching of breast self-examination by skilled health professionals."

The Canadian National Breast Screening Study-2 (CNBSS-2) has been following more than 39,000 women assigned either to annual physical examination or examination plus mammography since the mid-1980s.

Now, in the latest of an ongoing series of updates, the authors report the results 11 to 16 years after the start of the study.

Mammography continues to offer earlier detection, however. According to the report, mammography plus physical examination provides a 3.6-year advantage in detection-time over no screening, whereas physical examination provides only a 1.5 year advantage.

Consistent with this 2.1-year lead-time advantage, tumors detected by mammography plus physical examination tend to be smaller and are less likely to have spread to the lymph nodes, the researchers report. Unfortunately, the investigators admit, these apparent advantages do not translate into an increased survival rate for women screened with mammography plus physical examination.

Journal of the National Cancer Institute September 20, 2000;92:1490-1499

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Well now, here we have it: mammograms don't work. This is not published in some "rinky-dink" journal or press release. This is from the National Cancer Institute. Their analysis confirms what we have suspected for some time, that mammograms are not a good idea.

Most physicians recommend them for fear of being sued by a woman who developed breast cancer after which he did not advise her to get one. Now natural medicine physicians can rest comfortably and encourage women to get a thorough breast examination for abnormalities, as well as perform frequent self-examinations.

It is interesting how mammograms can be found to provide absolutely no benefit, yet it is the"standard of care" of mainstream medicine. "Quackbusters" like Stephen Barrett love to jump on alternative medical practices as essentially being worthless, yet I don't hear him referring to the tens of thousands of doctors ordering mammograms as "quacks." If this same exact study had come out with similar results for an alternative practice such as chelation, he and the government would be looking to shut down alternative medical practices across the country.

E. C

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Breast cancer is more painful and lasts longer....Just a thought to ponder.

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Dear S.,
Thanks for reminding me! It's time for me to have a mammo.
I had my first mammo fairly young, 30, but I had lumps which turned out to be caused by an infection, if you can believe that. I was scared out of my wits, but I was glad to get the results and know all was fine.
My first mother in law had always told me how horrible they were and she had to take a valium beforehand and she could barely stand the pain and it was traumatizing and humiliating to have someone seeing her breasts...
She was a full on whack job!
It was nothing like she said it would be and not horrible at all. The woman was so nice and kind and gentle, she explained everything before we started, she was an angel. And yes...it's dealing with someone seeing your boobs, but all women have them and if you've nursed a kid or two, who HASN'T seen your boobs?
The only thing I would like to say is that I'm thin and I have small breasts and the hardest part was having my ribs up against the thing while they tried to get some boob in the machine. It wasn't really unpleasant, I wasn't in pain and it only took a few minutes. My doctor called me with the results the next day.
I guess everyone's experiences are different, but my mom and sister have huge breasts and say their mammos don't hurt them either.
I think you'll be fine. Relax. Let us know how it goes for you.

Best wishes!

Hi S.,
I'm glad you wrote in! It doesn't really hurt, actually. The entire procedure is not fun but not painful. You will be led back into an area where you will have a little locker and be asked to put on one of those hospital gowns, then you will sit in a room of similar women and wait for your name to be called. When you go in, the radiologist will put your breast between two plates and the machine will lower itself so your breast looks more like a pancake than you ever thought possible. Then, the radiologist will manually tighten the plates even more so your breast tissue is as flat as possible. Then she will tell you not to move (ha ha - mine really did tell me that...where was I going to go?) and then she will do her thing of taking the pictures. This part will last no more than 30 seconds. Then she'll do the other side. On a level between 0 and 10, 10 being the most pain, I would say this will not be higher than a level 2 - mostly uncomfortable, not really painful. Please let me know if I can answer any other questions you have.

Dear S.,
I just had my first mammogramm taken this spring and I too had heard that it hurt. but it didn't. It was quick, painless and easy. I worried too much about it. The result is probably the thing most worth worrying about. I came out normal and had I known before how simple it would be... So just let you know that.

I have had 15 mammograms and they may be slightly uncomfortable, but there is NOTHING to be frightended of...the staff have always been very helpful and professional.

It probably takes about 5 to 10 minutes, once you are in the actual xray room.

You are probably 35 to get your first, so your dr is just taking really good care to make sure you are doing well and will always be healthy enough to be a great mom.

Good Luck!

I don't have any great advise or experience, but I'm right there with you! I have my first scheduled for next week. Just one of the fun parts of getting older... :)

Hi S. - like the other posts, I will tell you that it really isn't "painful". It's more uncomfortable than anything. The lab I went to offered (for a small fee) pads that can be used to help with the discomfort, but I declined because it's really not that bad to begin with and it's over before you even know it. When I had my last mamo they called two days later and asked that I come back in. They gave me no information except that they just wanted another slide to look at. Of course it's unnerving to get that phone call. I went in and had another slide done and waited in the waiting room. They then came back and said they wanted to do an ultrasound. That freaked me out! The good news is that it came back fine - turns out I had a very fiberous area and they just wanted to make sure it wasn't anything. So even if you do get a call back - don't worry until they give you a reason to worry. Even a re-do could be nothing. Good luck. ~M.

Don't worry about it. It is over very quickly and the techicians are very good. They have you stand and they place you they way they need to to get the best pictures. Unless your boobs are really, really tender it doesn't hurt that much. Maybe a little uncomfortable. The first time is always the hardest because it is new, but you get use to them every year and it is good you are doing it.

You'll be fine.......................Roxy

S. -

Welcome to the age of mammograms! Someone once told me they must have been invented by a man because a woman would have found a better way. Anyway, I'm im the age group where I've had lots of mammograms and they're not too bad. There is a little bit of pain or sense of pressure when the machine presses down, but it's really not that bad. The most awkward part I think is as the technician moves everything into place.

J. F.

Hi S.,
I want to ease your mind, and your boob!(hee-hee)
I've had 3 mammograms and none of them have hurt. A little uncomfortable, but doesn't hurt. They are only squished for a minute. So don't be nervous. Results came in the mail in about 2 weeks.You'll be fine, I promise. Nothing compares to childbirth! My oldest is 11 years, and I still haven't forgotten!!!

Hi S.,
I have a few jokes, (not what you to hear!) It is not as bad as everyone says, just a little uncomfortable. Get it done, you will be happy you did!

I just had a colonoscpy done and the doctor said, "I don't want to see you for 10 years". I am 55 years old.

Just get it done. You will be happy you did !

Lucy B.

It's no big deal and mine did not hurt at all. I would not worry about it. They don't squeeze your boobs... I'm not sure where you heard that. Well at least they didn't when I had one. I mean the move it around some - but they don't squeeze it to the point that it hurts or anything like that.

Its very much like getting dental xrays, where they put the things in your mouth, go behind the screen, press the button and its done.

For a mammogram, they make you into a pancake just long enough for them to push the button. The pain factor kind of depends on how busty you are. Someone who is small chested with experience more discomfort just because theres not so much there to make into a pancake. For me, its no big deal at all.

For them, its just a body part. No different than positioning an arm or leg for xray. They have to get it in just the right position so the xray picks up what they need to see.

Don't sweat it.

Hello S.: I have been doing Mamaogams for years and I can honestly say that other than being a bit embarrassed the last time because it was a man doing it I have never had that problem before.
Some times it takes longer to get undressed and fill out the paperwork than to do the proceedure. I have to say that I have had more discomfort from biteing my lip than by the squezzing of my breast.
Good Luck and I am grateful that you care enough about yourself to take care of yourself like this. It is a gift that you give yourself. Nana G

Hi S. W,

Do not worry about anything. Stress causes problems. It does not hurt it is just uncomfortable.

Take a deep breathe and relax. It does not take that long.

A couple of minutes on each breast. The waiting period takes time.

Stop stressing and become proactive on your health. I have been practicing prevention for 25 years and my doctors are always amazed how healthy I am for my age.

I educate people how to stay healthy so you feel better.

Good luck.

N. Marie

Mine didn't hurt one bit. I would describe it as slightly uncomfortable for a few moments. The anticipation was much much worse than the actual experience.

It doesnt hurt hurt. The smaller your breasts the harder it is to get a full picture of the breast, so they tend to squish it into the machine. It is like a large clamp that has to press your breast down between two plates. I felt no pain at all, just pressure of the squish. I have small brests and was told it is more uncomfortable for us itty bitties than larger women. So since I have no personal experience with that, I can only tell you what I have heard.
Relax, it will be OK.

I just had my first one last Feb and I'm so glad I did it. I love knowing at this point I'm in the clear.
I had the best lady do mine (in Novato) and it hurt, but it wasn't PAINFUL. The best advice I got was don't look down at how flat your boob is :O) I don't have big boobs and it wasn't too bad. The ladies in the waiting room were funny when they heard it was my first time, which helped too. It is about as quick as a DDS xray, once they get your boob in there. They did 4 total on me. The front boob, so to speak and the more painful is kind of under your arm (the part on me that hangs out of my bra).
Best of luck and have fun!

I just had mine a month or so ago and it didn't hurt. Now labor.....THAT hurt! Good luck, you'll do fine!

You know it will hurt? Well, have you heard the joke about if they did this to men, they'd find some other way? My co-workers and I never even mentioned mammogram, we'd just clap our hands together vertically and horizontally, and everyone knew where we were going! Seriously, it's a little uncomfortable but that's about it. Of course when they want you to come back, that's a little different, but remember some lumps are cysts (my breasts are full of them) and 90% of the others aren't cancerous, so just relax. As someone below said, this is way better than full blown breast cancer!

I had no pain at all....so it may not be bad for you!!
It must be very individual.

I had a nurse tell me to take two Tylenol before the mammogram and it helps... and it does.

It is a tiny bit painful or uncomfortable; however, if where you are going has the digital mammograms, it is a lot better and quicker.

Good Luck!

I've had mammograms since age 35....I'm 42 now....my mother and her mother both are breast cancer survivors...whose cancer was caught by a mammogram.....so I feel your anxiety and fear about waiting for results...

if you are flat chested....it's gonna hurt more than those of us who a little bit more of a package...and the uncomfortable feeling is like for umm....10 seconds or less each time....

also if you are near your period and your breast are extra sensative it can be a little uncomfortable too.

but really it is fairly painless...the do about 3 xrays per breast and I think maybe 3 seconds of being uncomfortable for each xray...it's really not that bad at all....

So no worries!

Hi S.,

I am 42 y/o and had my 2nd mammogram this year. And just like the first, it went well. We belong to Kaiser and the gal that did last years, was done in fast time. It didn't hurt(but I told her maybe because my are already hanging and are almost flat anyway) We did get a good laugh from that. But seriously, it only took 5-10 minutes. There was some pressure, but I felt more discomfort(although mild) from the way she had to contort my arms t get the perfect shot. I had the same experience this year. I'm so glad I have this extra measure of protection. I wish all women did.

Have no fear, and just remember that a little discomfort can save your life.

God bless.


Let me reassure you that it is NOT as bad as you may have heard. I promise.

I have lumpy dense breasts and usually have to have extra films done - the squeezing is very temporary and while you may be a little sore afterwards, by the next day - your breasts will be back to normal.

Do be sure NOT to go the week before your period - your breasts are extra sensitive then. I made this mistake a few years ago and ended up having to have a surgical biopsy on one of the many lumps - it was benign. Anyways - I ended up having about 60 mammogram films that year and survived to tell about it.

See if you are allowed to take an Advil either before or after the procedure to help with any discomfort.


Hi S.,

I recently had my first mammogram and like you I thought it was going to be a terrible experience.
I ended up having a great experience. It was quick; I was only on the machine a minute or two on each side and it did not hurt. The technician was very nice and discreet.
I was told that if there were any issues I would be notified within the next day or two. Otherwise they send the results.
I hope you have a good experience; good luck!


For as long as it takes for the technician to walk over to the machine and click the picture, and then it releases automatically. It's nothing--okay, it's uncomfortable. But it will be over before you know it and you'll say "is that all? that was no big deal!"

As for the results, having lost several dear friends to breast cancer, all I can say is--better it's found than not, and the earlier the better. I've had a yearly mmgm for years now and there's never been anything.

Go do it, you'll be glad you did, no matter what the results.

Actually it isn't too bad. I was really scared before my first mammogram, and when it was over I wondered why. First they do one at a time while you are standing facing the machine. Then they do a side view on each. Yes, they squeeze your boobs, but it isn't as flat as you'd expect. It is more uncomfortable than painful IMO. I was in and out within 20 minutes, including dressing time. I've had 2 done so far, and the results usually arrived within 3-4 days.

Okay, if you can make it through a pap smear, then a mammogram is a piece of cake!

But seriously, it's not that bad. A little uncomfortable, but it's so fast. It's worth the peace of mind, and I feel relief after I get it done.

One more note, I noticed people say if you are flat it will hurt more. Well, I am pretty darn flat and it still did not hurt! The anticipation is what "hurts".

Hi S. - I just wanted to confirm with the others that my mammogram didn't hurt at all. I would not even say it was uncomfortable. I was so scared too because many years ago, someone told me how "excruciating" it was. I don't know what happened with her... but mine was really fast and easy and the tech made me feel very comfortable, considering how weird it is to have someone handling your breast. I had it done at Kaiser Santa Clara.


Your experience will probably depend on your technician. I've had a variety of levels of discomfort all the way to real pain - in that case I made them stop and re-arrange things.

The best advice was from a really good technician. She had me stand with my knees slightly bent. This works great especially since your natural inclination is for your knees to 'buckle' with pain or discomfort, when your knees are already slightly bent this buckling doesn't happen.

I haven't had a bad experience since I started using the bent knee technique.

Good luck and congratulations for being proactive with your health care.


i thought the same thing too, but it was actually OK it didnt hurt at all, it was just uncomfortable. if you have a really good xray tech, it will be fine. mine was so gentil and informative. she told me what she was doing & why. it was over in about 5 minutes. relax, it will be fine


I just had my first one and it was not bad at all.I was also quite worried and nervous,but found it a short and unpleasant experience,but since I had worst expectations,it felt nothing.:-)

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