[Skip to Navigation]
March 1988

Is Mammography Painful?A Multicenter Patient Survey

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Radiology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston (Drs Stomper and Jochelson), Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School (Dr Kopans), Faulkner Hospital, Tufts University Medical School, Jamaica Plain, Mass (Dr Sadowsky), and Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School (Drs Sonnenfeld and Meyer); the Clinical Radiologists P.A., Breast Imaging Center, Silver Spring, Md (Dr Swann); the Department of Biostatistics, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School (Dr Gelman and Ms Hunt); and the Department of Anesthesiology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School (Dr Allen).

Arch Intern Med. 1988;148(3):521-524. doi:10.1001/archinte.1988.00380030027006

• Anecdotal reports of pain experienced during mammography have been a source of anxiety and concern for some women considering screening. To determine what asymptomatic women actually experience during mammography, a survey of 1847 women was performed at seven breast-imaging centers. Women recorded their experience on a six-point scale ranging from no discomfort to severe pain. Eighty-eight percent of the women experienced no discomfort (49%) or mild discomfort (39%). Only 9% experienced moderate discomfort; 1%, severe discomfort; and 1%, moderate pain. No woman had pain so severe that it would make her reconsider having a mammogram again. The degree of discomfort was slightly greater in women who complained of breast tenderness within three days prior to the mammogram but was not strongly related to age, menstrual status, or week of the menstrual cycle. We conclude that in a vast majority of women mammography causes no or mild physical discomfort and that actual pain Is an uncommon occurrence.

(Arch Intern Med 1988;148:521-524)

Add or change institution