8 Ways to Ease Mammogram Discomfort

Check out these tips on how to make mammograms a little more comfortable from Carol Mount, an assistant professor of radiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who specializes in mammography.

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1. Take pain reliever.

A couple hours before your appointment, take some aspirin or Tylenol. "Especially if you have tender breast tissue, this will help," Mount says.

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2. Schedule smart.

If you're premenopausal, plan your mammogram appointment in the first half of your cycle when your breasts will be less tender.

3. Wear a separate top and bottom.

You're already feeling vulnerable and not at ease, so not having to completely remove all your clothes will help.

4. Skip the antiperspirant.

Deodorants, talcum powder, and perfumes may get in your pores and may show up on x-rays, which means more time and more anxiety.

5. Ditch caffeine.

"If you tend to have tender breast tissue, caffeine will heighten discomfort," Mount says. "For most women, though, it's not an issue."

6. Breathe out deeply...

"If you just kind of sigh as the compression begins, you won't feel the pinching as much," Mount says. "Breathing out seems to allow you to relax more than breathing in, which seems to make muscles tighten."
  ...and hold. "Once you sigh out a breath, hold and don't breathe in for a couple seconds while the image is being taken," Mount advises. "This will help you hold steady and avoid retakes."

7. Bend your knees.

When you lock your knees, your whole body is less relaxed, Mount says. "It's kind of amazing, but flexing your knees a little will relax your body," she says.

8. Ask for a pad.

Radiologists will often have foam rubber pads available to cushion the mammography machine's hard surface. These spongy pads are placed on the sides of the breast before compression. However, there is usually an additional charge -- about $6 -- for using these pads.

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