Pink October: Breasts screening

Vivian Hsu for Mode Marie Bra

As part of the awareness for Pink October, I’ll like to share the story of my first breast screening via mammography done about 7 years ago.

I was ordered to go for a mammography after the gynae whom I consulted at that time for a Pap smear said she felt a slight lump after groping at my boobs.  

Nothing harmful was detected thankfully but the entire X-ray was unnerving. Not only did I have to worry about the outcome, I had to endure the extremely uncomfortable procedure where my breasts were being pressed against a platform on the mammogram machine by a plate.

A mammogram as some of you might know, is two X-rays of each breast.  The breasts are put in compression; from top to bottom, and then from the sides as part of the procedure.  

Following advice from an ex-colleague who had done it before, I tried to be as relax as possible during the X-ray to minimize chances of re-takes.  But still, I was nervous.   It started with my bare breasts feeling cold against the metal plates and that feeling later turned to great discomfort as my breasts were pressed, flattened and squeezed.    

I remember then that one of my breasts did not hurt as much but the other, probably because it was slightly bigger, hurt so much that I was in tears especially because they had to retake the X-ray after a failed attempt.

I’m not trying to scare those of you who have not have gone for a mammogram but rather to orientate you realistically.  Expect pain.  And usually, the larger your breasts are, the more painful the x-ray, although the degree may vary for different women. 

But know that the pain is just momentarily and going through a mammogram can be a life saver as this is the most effective tool available in detecting breast cancer before lumps can be felt or symptoms of cancer appear.   And we all know that early detection of breast cancer not only helps provide a woman with more options, but also increases the possibility of a favorable prognosis.

In addition, I read that there is a new type of mammogram called digital tomosynthesisa which takes multiple X-ray pictures of each breast from many angles and make the entire procedure less painful and uncomfortable.  So in time to come, when this technology becomes widely deployed, mammogram maybe less dreadful for us.

Meanwhile, if you’re preparing for a mammogram, you might want to read up the guide to breast screening with illustrations and details given.

As for me, apart from examining my breasts frequently, I also consult my gynae regularly and heed her advice whenever she recommends mammogram.  Well, even though I really wish I didn’t have to.


  1. Tracy says:

    you know i was once told off by a specialist that i am too young to have breast cancer and i was about 28 at that time. but we do know that we are never too young!

    this is a great post and informative. i have not, myself, done a mammogram but i have gone for ultrasounds and had some fluids removed from a lump on my breast. i thank God that the biopsy came back clear. it was a scary moment. i also thank God that that doctor was very supportive and never once mentioned i was too young!!

    Tracy: Whoa, I’m surprised that the specialist made such a unqualified comment. But perhaps he/she was trying to console as most with lumps detected on younger women do turn out to be cysts. And yes, thank goodness yours was nothing malign. But it must have been unnerving at that time.

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