Bam, bam, bam, get your mammogram: huge boobs edition
February 17, 2017 6:09 PM   Subscribe

My mom had breast cancer. I have big knockers. I'm worried about getting a mammogram. Please help!

So, based on my mom's age at her breast cancer diagnosis, I need to get a mammogram after my birthday this summer. Based on my doctor's rec it would probably happen this fall. My bra size at last measurement was 38H for nursing bras. Before I got pregnant I was a 34G. I haven't been re-fit for bras since I stopped nursing.

I'm nervous about how painful a mammogram will be.

Also, my husband and I are trying for another baby. Hopefully, I will be pregnant this summer. During my last pregnancy, I produced colostrum toward the end of the 2nd trimester. Will a pregnancy impact my mammogram somehow?

This is my first time at the rodeo. Please advise!
posted by Pearl928 to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm a 38DD. I didn't find my mammograms painful. It was awkward and uncomfortable but not really painful.

What is so magical about this summer, why can't you get it next week, for example? And if you think you may be genetically predisposed, you should be tested for the BRCA gene.
posted by shoesietart at 6:26 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Take ibuprofen before! It makes a big difference.

In general, women with smaller breasts tend to experience more pain than large breasted women. I had a lumpectomy two years ago and they aren't so bad even on my post-surgeried breast. You can do it!
posted by something something at 6:32 PM on February 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm a 36G and my small breasted grandma had always spoke about how painful the mammograms were each year. I had my first one last year at age 34 and they did regular and 3D ones and it was a pretty painless experience. None of the crushing or twisting sensations that I expected. I had a nice tech who made the fact that someone was lifting and positioning my breasts on the machine seem only a little awkward. Good luck!
posted by icaicaer at 6:35 PM on February 17, 2017

The technicians are usually really good at giving instructions.
Listen to what they tell you-- how to stand, when to breathe, and just relax.
Mine haven't hurt.
Oh and check your menstrual cycle to avoid days when breasts are tender
posted by calgirl at 6:35 PM on February 17, 2017

Another small-breasted babe here, and I've had two mammograms so far. I think that we're the ones who end up on the short end of the stick, so to speak, because the tech has to sort of pull and stretch things just to get our boobs into the right position - if you have bigger boobs, you can just plop them onto the tray and they're in the right place.

The compressing part is uncomfortable, but not super-painful.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:38 PM on February 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

38G while nursing, was a 38E beforehand. No pain at all during my mammogram, but I did puke during the MRI. I was told I should not have either one while pregnant or nursing. My mom was diagnosed at 33 and I started at 30. Compared to nursing a mammogram was a breeze!
posted by notjustthefish at 6:40 PM on February 17, 2017

My mammogram was only intensely painful due to mastitis. It wasn't amazing in my healthy breast, but it's a compression that only lasts about two minutes. It's a bit of a shock but it is very transient.

But I agree there's no reason to delay. If you experience breast tenderness in pregnancy, pregnancy isn't going to improve the sensation of mammography.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:42 PM on February 17, 2017

- avoid caffeine

- choose carefully what day you make your appointment

- all things pass
posted by amtho at 6:46 PM on February 17, 2017

I had a mammogram while pregnant (36D) and it was uncomfortable but totally bearable. The worst part was a Charlie horse I got in my leg. If you've ever had mastitis a mammogram will be a breeze.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:49 PM on February 17, 2017

30GG here. My mother had cancer in her 30s, and then I was diagnosed with cancer in my 30s, so I have had A LOT of mammograms. They have never been painful. They are kind of uncomfortable, but the compression lasts seconds (not minutes - seconds).

I agree with EmpressCallipygos that it is probably easier to have larger boobs for a mammogram. There's still some positioning, but that's not painful at all.
posted by jeoc at 7:08 PM on February 17, 2017

40G here and I politely rolling my eyes. We big bosomed folk have it MUCH easier than our smaller sisters.

I've had 10 mammograms. The very first one hurt on one side because I wasn't following the woman's directions completely and a TEEEENY bit of skin pinched, about the pain level I get whenI get my purse strap caught in my backback strap and it pinches the underside of my arm. Still, I was SHOCKED because other than my mother (who told me it would be no big deal), so many people seemed to be overly concerned about my potential discomfort.

The other nine times? Nada. It's not FUN, but it's no big deal. It's not p-a-i-n unless, as others noticed, you have a breast infection, mastitis, or similar. Otherwise, I'm a wimp and it was just not a thing.

Experts suggest scheduling your mammo for approximately one week after your period will have ended. I could make you a list of medical/dental things that the average person gets done in a lifetime that are WAY more uncomfortable. Honestly, I'd get a mammogram once a week if I could free myself from the poking around they do at the dentist twice a year or the pressure thingie they do at my annual eye exam.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 7:17 PM on February 17, 2017

I'm a similar size and didn't find my mammogram painful. It was definitely somewhat uncomfortable from the squishing, but was over quite quickly. Breastfeeding was much more painful for me. You might want to talk to your doctor and see if you can schedule it before you get pregnant again, though, both to avoid exposing the baby to radiation and because of tissue changes that might make the results harder to read. (Your breasts may also be more sensitive when you're pregnant, which could make the mammogram more uncomfortable.)
posted by belladonna at 7:18 PM on February 17, 2017

Have you told your doc you are planning on being pregnant asap? Most likely the recommendation will be to get a mammogram now or wait until after you're done nursing the new baby, which may be farther out than the doctor is comfortable with. Talk to them and make a plan now.
posted by lydhre at 7:18 PM on February 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

36 D/DD. I had my first mammogram last week. I was almost in tears when it started, because I was imagining some exquisite torture. It barely even registered as "pressure." I got called back due to an abnormal finding, and the call-back imaging involved more pronounced squishing, but even that was on the border between "pressure" and "mild pain."

They did ask me whether I was pregnant, and whether I was breastfeeding. I'm not, for either, but I assume the questions mean that someone who is should not be given a mammogram, or given a different version.
posted by lazuli at 7:22 PM on February 17, 2017

Thanks, all, that really puts me at ease. Yes, I had a nasty case of mastitis. That was a good reminder that I've already had acute pain in the breast.

My mother has always said they are painful, and she as a cancer patient had her share, so that's where I've been coming from. But now I feel better about it. Thank you!
posted by Pearl928 at 7:32 PM on February 17, 2017

I appear to be the outlier in that I have big boobs (DDD, egads) and my first mammogram was so painful I nearly fainted. And I have a very high pain threshold. Now, in my case, the tech did tell me that the machine they use for larger-breasted women was broken -- it apparently has larger plates so the squishing isn't as... intense, I guess. In the future, I plan to go to a different place that has more than one of those machines. (I also had an issue with the tech not warning me before she'd take an image -- she would just say "Don;t breathe!" and boom, so I didn;t have time to take a breath, and I got light-headed. I should have spoken up about that, but it was all aaaargh and ow and this is weird. At least it was quick!)
posted by sarcasticah at 8:08 PM on February 17, 2017

I too am stacked, and my first mammogram, I threw up in the exam room. My second, I passed out. My third, fine. All subsequent ones, fine. What changed? I had had the BRCA1 genetic test, and I came back negative for the cancer-associated mutation, so I wasn't afraid anymore. I would recommend addressing the fear, if you have it, through info (like the genetic test) or palliation (like Ativan, for example) before the test.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 9:04 PM on February 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

Large chested, Had my first mammogram last year, slightly uncomfortable but mainly just awkward.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:05 AM on February 18, 2017

Breast cancer patient here. Pregnancy will impact your mammogram; my radiologist and oncologist both say they don't recommend breast imaging while pregnant/nursing.

Screening mammography—mammography done in absence of symptoms—is generally not done during pregnancy. (That said, pregnant women who do have symptoms (lumps, unusual discharge, etc) can get mammograms, and they're considered relatively safe.)

I would try to get the mammogram ASAP to get it out of the way. Talk about your timeline with your doctor.
posted by purpleclover at 8:21 AM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I had my second mammogram done last month. My first was 5 years ago, and with a much larger set of boobs (reduction followed). This recent one was remarkably easier - the tech said that imaging has really improved and they don't need to squeeze as hard now. I had been dreading it, but it was no big deal.
posted by Dashy at 8:36 AM on February 18, 2017

Hi there! 34G and I just had a Breast Health Drama™ you might want to hear about.

In December I had my routine mammogram done. It's a little weird when a stranger handles your breasts, and the pressure of the machine was unusual but not painful. My mammograms revealed tissue in both breasts that warranted further examination, so they did an ultrasound study the same day. The ultrasound is completely painless, but (again) involves strangers touching your breasts and some chilly goop they apply before using the sensor wand.

The ultrasound revealed two lumps, one in each breast, that warranted a biopsy. That procedure was scheduled for later the same week.

I went in for my biopsies, which are local-anaesthetic, outpatient procedures. They numb the spot on the skin of your breast, then continue numbing the breast tissue the biopsy needle will pass through. I felt pressure and there was a loud click when the biopsy needle snagged its sample (they warned me about the click in advance) and that was that.

The biopsies revealed two harmless cysts. The biopsy needle deposited tiny titanium tags in my breasts so the docs can compare against my next mammogram in six months. In terms of unpleasantness, I would genuinely rather have a breast biopsy than a dental filling. The anxiety before the procedure was in each case worse than the procedure itself.
posted by workerant at 8:37 AM on February 18, 2017

30G here. I can also report having no pain with a mammogram, though I would certainly make a point of scheduling it in the first two weeks of your cycle if you're prone to post-ovulation breast tenderness.
posted by jesourie at 10:02 AM on February 18, 2017

I have tiny boobs and my mammogram really hurt. BUT! It also really hurt for about five seconds. So even if you DO experience pain, it is super super fast. Worst case scenario: It hurts like a bitch for a tiny amount of time. You can do it!
posted by Countess Sandwich at 10:30 AM on February 18, 2017

I have teeny tits and mammos are uncomfortable but it's over pretty quick so... ?? it's okay. Last time, however, the radiologist saw something he didn't like the look of, and since it was Christmas week, my only choices for scheduling a more fine-grain mammogram & ultrasound were either (a) the next day, or (b) 2 weeks later after the holidays. Long story short, I do not recommend getting mammogrammed 2 days in a row. And it was all perfectly fine, my tits are just lumpier now after menopause.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 10:50 AM on February 18, 2017

(That said, pregnant women who do have symptoms (lumps, unusual discharge, etc) can get mammograms, and they're considered relatively safe.)

I want to strengthen something I said in my earlier answer: Pregnant or nursing women who have symptoms (new lumps, unusual or changing discharge, for example) can and should go to the doctor and get mammograms for diagnostic purposes. Do not wait until you're no longer pregnant/nursing.

OP, it sounds like you have no current symptoms, so this is not your situation, but I wanted to clarify.
posted by purpleclover at 11:05 AM on February 18, 2017

As I recall, at my last mammogram they took 4 images, and the pain lasted about 4 seconds for each. There's a pause in between for adjusting the patient and the machine, and you can ask for a longer pause if you want.
posted by wryly at 2:02 PM on February 18, 2017

I'm a 48DD, and had no trouble whatsoever. It's a little weird at first, and uncomfortable, but I wouldn't call it painful, although YMMV. I will say if you think you have big boobs now? Wait til you see them flattened and stretched out on a table in front of you between two clear panels. BIZARRE. Good luck!
posted by jhope71 at 9:34 AM on February 20, 2017

Okay, now I'm fairly freaked out by how much mine hurt. I was already planning to go to a different place for my next one, but now I definitely will, because mine was probably the worst pain I've experienced in my life, except for a knee dislocation that hurt slightly more. Gall stone attack? Didn't hurt as bad as this.
posted by sarcasticah at 9:45 PM on February 20, 2017

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