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Does it hurt? Leann explains mammograms

  • They might enter the clinic in fear. But after a mammogram by Leann McMullen, women often say, "Oh, that wasn't so bad."

    "Many patients come in fearful because they've heard horror stories about mammograms," says McMullen. "But it shouldn't be a horrible experience. It is very important to listen to patients and help them feel at ease."

    That's what the radiology coordinator and her colleagues try to do as they perform an average of 380 mammograms a month at Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic.

  • Catching breast cancer early

    A mammogram is an X-ray examination of the breast in a woman with no breast complaints. It's meant to find cancer when it is too small to be felt by the woman or her doctor.

    Early detection improves one's ability to overcome breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in women (after lung cancer).

    A screening mammogram usually involves four views: a front and a side of each breast. For each view, the breast is squeezed between two plates to spread the tissue apart and allow a low dose of radiation.

    "There is a moment of discomfort. It is tight, but then it's done. The total amount of compression time is 40 to 50 seconds for all four views," says McMullen, who personally receives a mammogram each year.

    expand to learn moreWhat should I do before my mammogram?

    expand to learn moreWhat should I expect after my mammogram?

  • Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Mammograms, Clinical Breast Exams and Self-exams, rad-ahc-14066 (3/08); American Cancer Society; "Types of Breast Biopsies" by Tammy Fox, MD, and Diane Stoller, MD, Piper Breast Center Communiqué, winter 2003; National Cancer Institute
    Reviewed by: Timothy Sielaff, MD, PhD, FACS, president, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute; Carol Bergen, RN, manager, Piper Breast Center; Deborah Day, MD, medical director, Piper Breast Center
    First published: 08/25/2009
    Last reviewed: 08/25/2009