What It’s Really Like to Get a Mammogram

A few years ago, when I turned 40, I made a conscious decision to start making my health and wellness a top priority. The first thing I did was make an appointment for my annual physical where I asked my gynecologist to schedule my first mammogram. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but since I decided it was necessary I simply didn’t see any other option than to make the appointment and get it done. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I worked it up to be in my head (we women are so good at doing that, aren’t we?) and I breathed a sigh of relief when a letter arrived from the hospital telling me I didn’t have breast cancer. In the past year alone I’ve known of two women in my life who were diagnosed with, and treated for, breast cancer. They are both doing well now, but I hope neither of them has to go through a recurrence and I’m pretty certain they would want all of their female friends to do self-exams and talk to their doctor about getting a mammogram. If you’ve had one (or several) mammograms and need to schedule one, please do it now. If you’ve never had a mammogram and are at the recommended age of 40 to get a first one, but have been putting it off because you don’t have the time or are too nervous about what it will feel like I’d like to put your mind at ease and tell you what to expect. I promise it’s not all that painful and most definitely worth it.

Getting A Mammogram

While the procedure may vary a little depending on the medical facility, I’m guessing your experience would be pretty similar to mine. The first, and possibly most important thing I’d like to say, is that having a technician you feel comfortable with is going to make all the difference. I’d like to think that anyone working in mammography will make it a priority to put a woman’s mind at ease, especially if it’s her first time getting a mammogram, but I personally wouldn’t hesitate to ask for someone different if I didn’t feel comfortable. I was fortunate to have a tech who helped me feel relaxed before, during, and after the procedure.

  • The first thing she did was hand me a gown that had two buttons and opened in the front (for obvious reasons) and led me to a changing room where she said I only needed to undress from the waist up.
  • I then sat in a small, but private, waiting area right outside the exam room as the woman before me wasn’t quite finished. I had the opportunity to chat with my technician for a couple minutes, which helped to relax me because even though I wasn’t overly nervous I was still feeling a tiny bit anxious.
  • We then entered the exam room together and continued talking while she cleaned up the mammogram machine and gave it a good wipe down.
  • She then asked me a couple questions and explained that she would be taking a total of four pictures of each breast. One bit of advice that I’d like to offer is that you make sure you’re wearing deodorant (just make sure it’s free of Aluminum) and have brushed your teeth. You’ll be quite up close and personal with the technician and you’ll probably be nervous enough about your breasts being exposed so why add stressing about body odor or bad breath to your worries? Trust me on this one.
  • Take a deep breath and try to relax. The technician will do all of the work and will need to manipulate your breast a little in order to get the best images. My technician placed my breast into position and the machine squeezed it between two plates. She then asked me if I was okay. When I said yes the machine squeezed a little tighter. She told me to hold my breath, took a couple photos and the machine released immediately from my breast. Truthfully, it hurts a little and it’s uncomfortable, but I’m pretty sure it’s way less uncomfortable than cancer. I repeated that mantra to myself throughout my mammogram.

We repeated the above step a total of three more times and we were done. From start to finish I’d estimate my mammogram took less than five minutes. Five minutes. Five minutes to screen for breast cancer and hopefully get a letter that says you don’t have cancer. I received that very letter a few days ago (less than a week after my mammogram) and I can tell you there’s pretty much no better piece of mail to open if you’re a woman.


  1. I turned 40 back in October and I still haven’t scheduled mine. Here our doctors recommend that If there isn’t a family history they would like you to wait till 50. Thanks for taking some of the fear out of getting a mammogram.
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    • It’s so interesting how recommendations vary from doctor to doctor. I’m really glad to have gotten my first one at 40, but what a relief you don’t have any history in your family to increase you risk.

  2. Robin Masshole mommy says

    I had a baseline one done a few years ago. It was much better than I expected it to be.

  3. I got my first last summer. It really wasn’t as bad as everyone said.

  4. Thanks for this post. It is important to read, and know we all have to go through it! Better to check and be prepared for the mammogram when people post their experiences!
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    • You’re welcome, Karissa! I wouldn’t want a woman to avoid an annual exam or mammogram out of fear, which is why I decided to share my experience.

  5. I just had my first mammogram a few months ago and it was such an easy and simple process. For some reason, I had it in my head that would be so complicated and painful..and literally within 15 minutes..in and out and it didn’t hurt at all? LOL
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    • Isn’t it funny that often when we don’t know what to expect we often expect the worst? I’m so glad to hear that your mammogram went so well!

  6. Thanks for sharing! I had my first one a few years ago, it was definitely not as bad as I was thinking it would be. I have had a few since, and need to get back in for another!
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    • I’m so glad you’re getting regular mammograms, Jeanine. It’s so important to put our health at the top of our priority list!

  7. I always wondered what it was like to have a mammogram. My mom has gotten a couple and every time I asked, she would kind of just ignore me so I figured they were terrible.
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  8. I don’t mind getting a Mammogram. For me it’s less painful then what most women have told it would be.
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    • I’m so glad you feel that way, Becca! I think the little bit of discomfort far outweighs the potential harm from breast cancer, so I’ll keep getting my mammograms and recommending them to all the women I care about.

  9. I am 41 and have never had one. I have either been pregnant or nursing a baby the last 10 years, still nursing a baby. I would suspect one in my near future.
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  10. I have had many since I will be turning 60 this summer. They have never bothered me because I am also a Registered Nurse and stuff like this doesn’t phase me. However, I know that many people are bothered and sometimes “paralyzed” by the thought of having one. It is great that you could describe what your experience was so that others can see that it really is quite a simple and for the most part painless test.

  11. Good for you! I had my first last year and was called back for additional views… which isn’t unusual when you don’t have a previous mammo to compare to. Thanks for sharing and spreading the word! Mammograms do save lives!
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  12. I haven’t ever had one before. I need to research what age I need to get one.
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  13. It’s definitely good to get these every now and then. It’s certainly worth the few seconds of discomfort.

  14. The worst part for me was standing on my tip toes to get the breast in the machine. My shortness and the tall machine wasn’t a good match. Regardless its an important test and every woman should make sure she gets one.

  15. As someone who has skirted breast cancer, I highly recommend every woman have a yearly mammogram after talking to their doctor. I applaud you for this post.
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  16. It is very important to take care of yourself. Mammograms are a huge part of that care. You did the right thing in getting this screening. Good job!

  17. So happy to see this post. I’m 45 and haven’t gone in yet. I’m definitely overdue.

  18. It was great of you to share this experience. You will help a lot of people be less afraid to get an exam.
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  19. I should get screened based on family history sooner than 40. Thanks for sharing the realness of the procedure bc honestly it always sounded scary!
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  20. Thanks for the info, I’m sure this will come in handy as I’m approaching 40 and will need one in the next few years. Glad your results came back fine!
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  21. Thanks for the tips. I am not quite in the range for a mammogram but I appreciate first hand experiences
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  22. I’m afraid of the “manipulating” part. Great post for those of us who still have this to look forward to!
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  23. Thanks for sharing. I am only 32 so I have not had one. Great info for those worried about going.
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  24. I turned 45 and a week later got my 1st one. I agree, the reality of it wasn’t nearly as bad as the horror story that played in my head. Thank goodness! It really wasn’t painful at all. Awkward maybe but not painful. They told me I couldn’t wear deodorant, and honestly, that made me more uncomfy than the whole exam!! It’s something we all need to do… Just get in there and get ‘er done! 🙂

    • Oh, that’s interesting about the deodorant because I actually remember seeing a spray one in the changing room at my hospital. I might have to ask them about that.

  25. Google must have this video censored. It wont let me post it to my fb newsfeed.cdc oil

  26. Great information. A lot can be learned in what medical tests does to your body and how it helps you. Thanks for sharing.
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