Extreme pain during mammograms - proactive ways to manage

Hi all,


I have deliberately posted this in the “living with” section since I don’t want anyone being tested for the first time to come across this post (in case it adds to their concerns), unless they are already so concerned as to be actively searching for such a post.


I am told by radiographers that levels of pain experienced by women during mammograms varies significantly depending upon density of breast tissue, how fatty the tissue is and factors such as whether the tissue has changed after having children…hence some of us having no/little pain (supposedly), and others (like me) finding it a bit like a form of medieval torture (albeit for a short space of time).


I had my first mamo in my early 40’s when I found a lump, and found the mammo very painful. Apparently I have very dense tissue. So 3 years on, with scar tissue in both breasts and fibrosis due to radiotherapy on one side (which seems to make it even more painful), I carried out an epic search for ways to reduce pain during the proceedure.


I came across one article where women’s pain experience had been tested using neurofen and by applying a gell containing lidocaine. The sample size was small and indicated that the gell may help reduce pain in some women, however the gell (which works in a similar way to anaesthetic), needs to be applied in a particular way, and if the skin is wrapped or covered it sounds like it may cause complications (too strong, near heart etc). If anyone is interested you might want to look into the study and risks/side effects of the gell. Has anyone tried the gell and if so what advice was given by medic’s and how did you find it?


In the end, dreading the pain during the mammo (excruciating is the word I would use for last years one), I dug out some of my post op pain medication (all as prescribed by my doctor), and took 2 x 30mg/500mg co-codamol, 2 x 200g neurofen and 1 x 10mg amitripylene (for amongst other things, nerve pain), taken after food, 1 hour before my mammo appointment. Please ensure you check with your doctor if contemplating such an approach, since many of these medications are not advised if you have certain medical conditions and interact badly with other medications). You will also need to avoid driving for a number of hours and not have anything planned after the mammo since you are highly likely to be mega tired/floaty within a short space of time.

Anyway, the result, it really helped reduce the pain in 3 out of the 4 mammograms. I did still feel pain, but not at the level previously felt (despite the most recent operation only being carried out just over 5 months ago). I walked home and soon fell asleep… 


As I say, please do ensure you check with your doctor if you find mammo’s painful and get advice on managing pain, based on what is medically suitable for you/any health conditions you may have and any other medication you may take.        


Seabreeze (sharing in case it helps another member of this mutually supportive bc club, the club which none of us would choose to join!)   x

Thanks Seabreeze. I am also one of those who dreads mammograms due to pain and a very bad experience 14 years ago when the operator used the foot pedal  in a completely clumsy way rather than the manual ways of tightening the screws,  I used to find them excruciating, though as you say, not everyone does. Hence last year when i had umpteen mammos and 2 of the biopsies when you’re clamped into the machine, plus the wire localisation prior to WLE, I decided I needed to to sort myself out and I took 2 paracetamol about one and a half hours before each procedure - this reduced the sensation from pain to “merely uncomfortable” and i always try to recommend this to anyone having biospies in particular, as they take a bit longer and you are clamped in for longer. The lady doing the squishing on each occasion was absolutely fantastic and patient, and this and the paracetamol has reduced my fear of mammos to what I guess is now a normal level. (Which is a good thing really, given that I’ll be in for them annually now! Important not to take anything with aspirin in though.) I’m  very surprised that people aren’t made more generally aware by the medics of what they can do to make things easier for themselves as we seem to have discovered. Hopefully this forum will help. xxxxxxx