Mammography screening for asymptomatic older women has been shown to be effective in reducing breast cancer mortality. Physicians and patients report pain as a major barrier for many women in the screening process; however, few studies report both the degree and type of pain women experience during the screening.
Two hundred women 40 years and older were interviewed immediately following screening mammography. They were questioned about the pain they experienced, the difference between their experience and their expectations, and the most stressful part of the entire procedure.
Seventy-two percent of the women reported the pain to rank 4 or less on a scale of 0 to 10 (mean ± SD score, 2.95 ± 2.09). The highest level of pain reported resulted from the compression of the breasts (3.25 ± 2.43). Ninety-six percent reported that the pain was "less than" or "about as expected." Most (94%) said they were "very likely or somewhat likely to get a mammogram next year." The most stressful part of the procedure was waiting for the results, according to 39% of the women.
The relatively low level of pain reported is useful information for both patients and practitioners. Adherence to screening recommendations is more likely to occur when both parties are able to anticipate the most painful and stressful elements of mammography.