Female Undergoing Mammogram X-ray Test

The following content is created in consultation with Southern New Hampshire Health. It does not reflect the work or opinions of NECN’s editorial staff. Click here to learn more about Southern New Hampshire Health.

Mammograms are one of the best ways to screen for breast cancer. Yet only about 67% of women over age 40 have had a mammogram within the last two years. Why do we avoid this simple yet lifesaving procedure?

One reason is a fear of the possible results. But our biggest is that we just don’t like being squished, pinched, pulled and compressed. The good news is that there are easy ways to reduce the stress and pain of having a mammogram, including taking advantage of the innovative new technologies at the deNicola Breast Health Center at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center. 

1) Put mind over body

From start to finish, a mammogram should only take about 15 minutes. The painful parts—which happen when your curved breast is compressed between flat plates—last only as long as it takes to snap an x-ray. Before your appointment, use mind/ body techniques such as meditation to reduce tension. Practice mindful breathing during the exam’s tough spots. If all else fails, remind yourself that you’ll be out of your uncomfortable position in a matter of seconds.  

2) Listen carefully

During the exam, the technologist will give you detailed instructions in order to get the best possible image of your breast tissue. You might be told to move toward or away from the machine, for example, or to raise or lower your arms. If you listen carefully and follow the instructions precisely, you’ll be able to get into position faster and help the technologist take quality pictures and avoid having to retake pictures that require additional compression.    

3) Timing is everything

Schedule your appointment for a day when your breasts are least likely to be tender. Avoid the days before and during your period, for example, when fluctuating hormones may make you especially sensitive. Avoid coffee and tea on the day of the exam, as reducing caffeine intake may help reduce breast pain. Finally, choose shoes you can be comfortable standing in and wear a separate top and bottom so you can remain in your own comfortable clothes from your waist down. 

4) SmartCurve™ technology 

Breasts aren’t flat, but mammography paddles are—until now. Southern New Hampshire Medical Center was among the first to offer the game-changing SmartCurve™ breast stabilization system, with a curved surface that reduces pinching and allows better distribution of force over the entire breast. Adds Elaine Lavallee, Manager of Mammography Services at the Medical Center,  “We are not only able to provide a more comfortable mammogram, but can do so while maintaining clinical accuracy.”

The deNicola Breast Health Center at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center is a pioneer in adopting innovations that provide its patients with superior breast cancer care. Visit SNHhealth.org/mammo to learn more. 

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