Mammogram Pain: What to expect

By Dr. Sajjan Rajpurohit in Breast Cancer

Nov 29 , 2022 | 2 min read

Mammogram pain is often under-reported and under-recognised by those who experience it. This article analyses the issue, its prevalence, what it feels like and how to cope with pain.

A mammogram is the most common procedure to detect breast cancer in its early stages, before it can spread. However, with a mammogram comes the pain of staying still for an extended period. Learn more about it and how you can feel less discomfort during your mammogram!

What is a Mammogram?

mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. It is used to look for early signs of breast cancer. Mammograms can also find tumours that are too small to feel.

Mammograms are quick and easy. They usually take less than 10 minutes. The whole process takes about 30 minutes.

You will be asked to undress from the waist up and put on a gown during the exam. Remove any jewellery you may be wearing, like necklaces or earrings, that might get in the way.

You have to stand in front of an X-ray machine, after which your breast will be placed on a flat surface and compressed with a paddle. The compression helps get clear pictures by spreading out the breast tissue. The exam itself is not painful, but the compression may be uncomfortable. 

After the X-rays are taken, you can dress and go home. The radiologist will check the images and send them to the doctor.

How does a mammogram feel?

Mammograms are designed to compress your breast tissue to get clear images. This compression can sometimes be uncomfortable, but it shouldn't be painful. You may feel some pressure as your breasts are pressed between two plates. Some women describe it as having an elbow pressed into their chest. The compression lasts a few seconds while the image is taken. Once the picture is taken, the technician will release the pressure, and you can relax.

What to expect after a mammogram

After your mammogram, the technologist will review the images with a radiologist. If more images are needed, the radiologist will order additional views. You will then be free to leave.

Alternative procedures

There are a few alternative procedures to mammograms, but they are not as effective. One is ultrasound, it is used to detect lumps but is not as good at detecting cancer as mammograms. Another is MRI, it can be used to look for abnormalities in the breast tissue, but is not as good at detecting cancer as mammograms. The last alternative is Thermography, which uses heat sensors to look for abnormal blood flow in the breasts, but is not as good at detecting cancer as mammograms.


Mammogram pain is usually minimal and tolerable. However, if the pain is severe, please consult your doctor. A few things can be done to help ease any discomfort, such as taking ibuprofen an hour before your scheduled mammogram and using a warm compress on your breasts afterwards. Don't let pain keep you from getting this important cancer screening test.