Welcome to my mammogram.



There are 3 things women universally dread: the day we realize some asshole stopped manufacturing our favourite jeans, a pap smear and a mammogram.  In that exact order.  Always.  Last week I experienced number three on the list.  The mammogram.   The boob tube.  The knocker rocker.  The breast test quest.

Yes indeed, welcome to my mammogram.

So for those of you who are worried, concerned, afraid, nervous or curious about what a mammogram is *really* like, join me during the fun filled experience of mine.





In Canada you don’t have to get a mammogram until you’re 50 years old.  That’s because the government is trying to save money not lives. But if you want to or have any history of breast cancer in your family  you can ask your doctor to get one earlier. 40 is a popular age for your first if you have a history of breast cancer.  My aunt had breast cancer so I told my doctor I’d like to get one.

The only instructions you have to follow when you’re getting a mammogram is to wear a top and pants so you can take your top off and still be clothed on the bottom when you go in.  Of course you could always wear a dress, be completely naked and schedule a colonoscopy for the same day and be ready for anything.  Oh! And don’t wear deodorant that day because it’s possible it will have metals in it that will interfere with the x ray.

So now you’re ready to leave your house in your pants, top and unprotected underarms (that are already getting a sideways glance from the cats because you’re nervous about getting your first mammogram).  Everything’s off to a good start.

I went to a brand new clinic, The Breast Assessment centre, a subsidiary of Hamilton Health Sciences in Hamilton, Ontario.  It’s beautiful.  It had a very sparse, Japanese type design to it so the minute I walked in the doors I felt good.   Like I was taking my boobs for a special spa treatment.

Your place may not be like mine but it was a really nice way to get the mammogram underway for me.  The beautiful surroundings made me more self conscious about feeling like I had seeping garbage smell coming from my underarms.  If I were in a Bangladeshi slum my smell at least could have blended a little.

Now that I had walked in and indiscriminately started taking pictures of the waiting room, with my arms clapped as tight to my sides as possible, it was time for me to check in.

I arrived at 12:35 for my 12:45 appointment.  Mainly I was there early because I was so looking forward to it. And by it I’m referring to the moment I returned home and could put deodorant on.  I was checked in, taken to the change room and given my gown within minutes.

As of yet no one had pointed to, commented on or made notice of my breasts in any way.  In fact they probably got more attention on my last trip to the grocery store.




I had to remove everything on top and kept my jeans and boots on.  And my necklace.  Just because you’re about to have a mammogram doesn’t mean you can’t be fancy.





Even though the clinic is new and beautiful they didn’t have actual gowns for mammograms yet which means that I had to put on a regular, flimsy hospital gown worn backwards.  Which means there was no way to do it up so that it covered anything.  I could have held it together with both my hands but I had one hand in my pocket and the other one hailing a taxi cab.  Wait, no.  That’s not right.  I had one hand on my iPhone, taking pictures.  That’s right.   I was only walking out into a very small, private waiting room with no other people in it, but still.  I wanted to be covered up.  Enter the winter scarf tied as a jaunty belt. It was at this moment I wondered why I had never taken up Russian dancing. I looked around the change room to see if anyone knew of a good Russian dancing school but no one else was around.  Typical of this day I was having.  Here I was ready to establish what was obviously my next career and I couldn’t do anything about it because of these stupid boobs.  Today was boob day.  Tomorrow I’d look into the Russian dancing.

As soon as I finished my change room photoshoot I came out into the hall, ready to sit down in the waiting room but the lovely Beth said my name and asked me to follow her.

Beth was my X Ray technologist.  She’s be the one lifting, moving and squishing my boobs for the mammogram.  I immediately felt as though Beth could be trusted with my most prized possessions: the breasts of a woman who hasn’t had children. Sadly no one ever sees them. Conversely everyone sees the two warts on the end of my ankles, otherwise known as feet.

Here’s Beth.  Beth is about to ask me to step towards the big, biting machine so it she can set it up to properly gnaw down on each of my boobs.

A mammogram takes 4 pictures in total.  One of each boob with you standing straight in front of the machine the way it is now …



And two with the machine in this tilt-a-whirl position.

Beth positions where you need to go to then lifts, shoves and gently rolls everything where it needs to be to get the best image.  Then the machine bears down automatically to a certain point.  When it stops squishing, Beth turns a hand crank to get it a bit tighter for good measure.



You’re also given an X ray blocking pad (total technical term) to protect your lady guts. I’m pretty sure I’m past the point of ever deciding to have children, but the X ray blocking pad would help ensure they didn’t come out looking like E.T., I would imagine.  But that’s just a guess.




I know what you’re thinking right now.  You’re thinking that girl has ENORMOUS elbows.  And I agree.  But I think it was just a bad camera angle.

What about the pain?

If you have big boobs it will hurt less because you have fat cushioning them.

A lot of the pain factor depends on your technologist and how heavy handed they are with the squishing part.

If you go during your period it will likely hurt more because your breasts are more sensitive at that time. If that’s the case you can reschedule your appointment.

If you are nervous and tense it will hurt more because the chest muscles laying under your boob will be tensed up.

Around 1/3rd of women say a mammogram is very painful.

Which means 2/3rds or over 66% do not find it painful. Which is the majority of women.

Did I find it painful?  No. No I did not.

The whole procedure, in and out takes about 15 minutes if you don’t have any waiting in the waiting room.  That’s from the minute I got in the place until I got out. Now, it took me a bit longer because I was taking pictures and showing off my boobs, and looking for a good Russian dancing coach, but for most people it will be a quick, 15 minute visit.

Results generally take about a week. I don’t have mine yet but I’m looking forward to getting them.  I’m also looking forward to getting a Yugo.


[shareaholic app=”share_buttons” id=”5342563″]


  1. Mindy says:

    LOL. Wow, now that’s a first. I’ve had one. I had a biopsy done on a lump several years ago. Then they tagged what remained of my lumpiness, the same way they tag cattle. The mammogram was to document the cattle tag. It didn’t hurt at all. I have a girlfriend who said it was horrifyingly painful. She’s either a giant wuss, or the technician sucked. I turn 40 next year and will start getting them annually. Clearly I need to document them in photos for my blog. 🙂

  2. Karen says:

    Well I figured, what the hell do I care. It’s good chance for me to remind women to book a mammogram. If I can get one and put pictures of it on my blog then surely everyone else can get one in private. ~ karen!

  3. Cynthia says:

    Yay for getting your boobs squished and being able to trust them again. Good boobs.

    I ‘googled” Yugo. Why would you want one? Apart from the boxy square shape, are they iconic?

    I personally feel you are more suited to one of the ol’ trucks you love. But then, you listen to Robert more than you listen to my opinion. 🙂

    Whenever mammographers or x-ray technicians or even dentists do their thing, we are told to remove the teenniest tiniest earrings and you were allowed to wear a Mr. T’s hand-me-down style necklace?

    Is there nothing in this world that is consistent?

    Love your boots. Your boots and jeans are so classy and classic all at the same time together. Assholes who stop making your favourite jeans need to be exposed on twitter along with L’oreal and Revlon when they delete the perfect eyeshadow colour just as you drop yours and turn it into fairy dust on the carpet.

  4. Karen says:

    Ha! That damn Robert. So the Yugo is an iconic REALLY BAD Russian car. 🙂 ~ karen!

  5. barbee says:

    My favorite mammogram was when the Asian technician said “you not big but you long”

  6. Nancy says:

    Well I’m 5’5″ and always weighed about 110lbs. After 2 breastfed children, my already small boobs were just little flaps. At 40 y/0 I got a mammogram every year and it never hurt. At 50ish I was told I had osteopenia. Start of osteoporosis. My Dr, a country Dr, said “my God woman, gain some weight or you have to take these killer bone fixer pills”. So, I did. I got up to 130 and wonder of wonders I grew nice boobs. Amazing. Only now they’re dense. So mammograms are horrible. It’s better if your machine only has dial controls. These machines with foot pedals will knock you to your knees. Only you can’t go to your knees cause you’re hung up in the machine by your poor breast.

  7. Amber says:

    Damn damn damn. I was hoping no one would call me out on the fact that I’ve blissfully ignored my latest mammogram scheduling. My dairy delights are squashed enough with all the winter-wear layers, do I really need to pay to have them flattened out in six different ways?
    Who designed these things anyways? Men just have to cough.

  8. Debbie says:

    Nice to know the boob squish machines are just the same in both countries. I to have an aunt who had breast cancer. It started the tests at 40 for me. A good thing for all woman to have one at 40, to have a base line picture to judge changes in the breasts with. Friday was my pap test, in a couple weeks its mammogram time again. Good for you asking for one early. Still, remember the day I found out my favorite jeans were discontinued (by an asshole) same day as my first mammogram.

  9. Wendi Miller says:

    Good girl, and thank you for blogging about this! I can’t believe the age to start getting mammograms in Canada is 50! My family doctor started my mammograms at 40 with no family history of breast cancer. And boy, am I glad she did! Just this past November, my yearly mamm caught cancer….at stage zero! Just three and a half months later and the whole kit & caboodle – biopsy, surgery and radiation – is done and I’m now cancer free, with a 99% probability that I will never get breast cancer (in either boob) again! If I hadn’t been getting a yearly boob squish they wouldnt have found the cancer until it was at a much later stage, and therefore, harder to treat.

    So take it from me, about five minutes of boob squishing discomfort once a year is worth it to help you avoid upper stage cancer!

  10. Pam says:

    Ahh..squished boobs…always a good time! I always chuckle when the technician tries to shield my modesty with the gown when we both know her hands are gonna be all up close and personal with the ‘ladies’. I mean really, what’s the point? Even though I’m quite a prude I just toss the gown aside and tell her to get on with it!

  11. Linda says:

    This is the funniest thing I’ve read all day.

  12. Elizabeth says:

    I call the two tests The Big Squeeze and the Annual Feel Up. Since I developed Macular Degeneration, the two Lady Tests have dropped down on my Scale of Unpleasant Medical Procedures: number one is now the monthly needle in the eye.

  13. Linda says:

    I stopped having them. If they’re rotting I guess ti’s ok….they’re trying to crawl away anyway. I’m 765 months old, (sounds better than almost 64). Not that I don’t believe in them, Just don’t believe in them for me. I wish all of you luck of course.

  14. Auntiepatch says:

    WHO told you that there is less pain for large breasted women!?!?!? In order to get a “good read” they must smash the Girls as thin as possible. That means that my 44DDD’s are smashed down to 32A size.

    One year the machine caught fire during my mammogram. It wasn’t working correctly and we had to do several “retakes” on the same side. Well, I started to notice a smokey/hot rubber smell and told the technician about it. She couldn’t smell anything at first. After I insisted that I was smelling smoke she moved over to me, her eyes got huge, and she ran out of the room leaving me caught in the machine. I tried to get it to release me but it wouldn’t. I just knew that I was going to die with my right breast attached to that damn machine. A minute later she came running in, released me from the machine, and threw my clothes at me yelling, “Get dressed!” Right on her heels were 2 men who took one look behind the machine and then they ran out. We were close on their heels. The fire alarm was going off and the building was being evacuated when I left the building with the technicians card in my hand. Her last words to me were, ” Call me when you want to reschedule.”

  15. Rebecca says:

    So not only do I have to go through life with the breasts of an 11 year old girl, it’s going to be more painful to get a mammogram? This sucks!

  16. AnnW in the US says:

    At my radiologist in Connecticut we get a little bag of pink things each time we go. A pink pen, some pink mints, sometimes a mirror, and other little pink crap like a sewing kit. It’s like getting a little mammogram party bag! I look forward to it. Thanks for the public service post, Karen. The latest figures in the US indicate that the death rate for breast cancer has dropped quite a bit in the last ten years. That’s because we catch this disease early and treat it aggressively.

  17. Meg says:

    “rotting” ??? I’m sorry, what the hell?

    When you get cancer, your boobs don’t just rot and fall off, and you’re fine. It can spread, and you can die. 40,000 women will DIE this year, because of breast cancer. Putting that in more understandable terms: 1/36 women who get breast cancer will die. And the 5-year survival rate for women with stage one (soon detected) breast cancer is 100% wheras that number drops drastically as the stages increase.

    Simply put, women that detect cancer sooner: live.

    It makes me angry and sad to read this, having watched my own mom die at 62 of cancer. I really hope you don’t have any children that would miss you. Because I can tell you 62 wasn’t enough time with my mother. And it would be horribly selfish and cruel to put anyone through what I went through, intentionally.

    KAREN: Thank you for this reminder to all women to take a SMALL amount of time and comfort from their day to try to live their lives. And for myself, thank you for the look into what it will be like. I’m young still, and am not due for them *just* yet – but I can tell you I have been afraid of mammograms 1) because they seem scary and 2) because my mom *had* breast cancer. (when she was 38…she died at 62 of renal cancer.) This might be your most empowering post. You’re basically my hero.

  18. judy says:

    My experience with this horror devised by males who I am convinced had Mommy issues, was so painful I had an up chuck moment in my throat and felt so woozy I thought I was going to pass out. I grabbed the trunk of the machine and held on for dear life not wanting to die by bleed out from amputated breast. Having 2 sisters die from breast cancer both at 62 led me back to what I hoped would be a much improved procedure. I meet Hannibal Lecters sister who I greet with “here’s the coward” Well-she harrumphed- you must be a coward to wait 25 years for a second mammogram, followed- by I don’t know how you’re going to stand this because this is really going to hurt you. She got one agonizing squeeze in and I fled. I found a different facility and got through it with minimal pain so choose your provider wisely cause there is a difference in the result.

  19. Louise says:

    LOL! Oh, that’s bad! 🙂

  20. Carmen Greene says:


  21. Louise says:

    OMG, that’s one scary story! Why did the men run out? Maybe radiation was flying around; have you noticed that you’re stating to look like a fly lately?!

  22. Louise says:

    I don’t believe that smaller breasts hurt more during mammograms. I have big breasts (nyah, nyah! except they sag now 🙁 ) and they have to roll them flat like pancakes. I would say “Ouch” but I’m too tough . . . and I’m biting my quivering lip to keep from yelling!

  23. Jody says:

    First off cheers to Beth for being a great sport and your photo assistant. Second cheers to you for the photo essay and taking the mystery out of having a mammogram. And thirdly I’d rather have my teeth cleaned than have a mammogram. When it’s time for your screening sigmoidoscopy will you blog that too? Can’t wait.

  24. Debison says:

    Thank you for sharing on this very important topic. I started having mammograms at 40 and, while I don’t necessarily enjoy them, I don’t dread them either. I think a lot of the discomfort depends on the tech doing the exam too. I’m average size and have had some that I have felt absolutely no pain and others that have felt like they are trying to pinch my breast off. Pap smears are another story. I haven’t had one of those for several years. I better quit delaying and get it done. *sad face* Oh, and just an FYI, because there is some justice in this world for all the boob pinching going on, some men have to get mammograms too, because they can get breast cancer as well..

  25. Lucie says:

    Hahaha! Love it!

  26. Tigersmom says:

    I have had a few mammograms and I have a very little known tip for making them hurt less. While some of it is definitely in the hands (quite literally, I’m afraid) of the technician, there is something that can be done to help.

    Relaxed breast tissue mashes much less painfully than tense breast tissue (unless you have the tech that I had last time that over-tightened the machine on my right boob to the point of me crying out). How does one obtain relaxed breast tissue? Through orgasm. How one obtains orgasm is up to the individual.

    Don’t believe me? Take notice of your breasts’ density when you have gone several days without having an orgasm and then immediately after an orgasm and you will notice a big difference.

    I am speaking from experience here, as I have had a mammogram both ways. And besides, it’s not as though I’m recommending something unpleasant as the cure, here. Hrrmph! The cure to many of life’s ills should be so enjoyable.

    And a special thanks to you, Karen, for providing a forum I which I could publicly share this tip. Up ’til now, I haven’t had one in which I felt comfortable in doing so. ; )

  27. Su says:

    I am fortunate the mamm doesn’t hurt much…. do I look forward to it? not really but I go cause the alternative just sucks… Thanks for taking us along with you for yours…. if you motivate one person to go and get screened who may not have and help save her life you are a rock star!
    I’ll do the mamm every day if I can avoid ever ever having to do the prep for colonoscopy!!!
    My clinic gives you a warmed gown to wrap yourself in and a nice antiperspirant towelette to wipe your underarms with when done. And the tech is a riot which is a great distraction during the procedure…

  28. Bonnie says:

    Size doesn’t matter. It generally hurts, but it’s one of those things you endure. And when it’s over, and hopefully as is well, you put it aside until the next year.

    I always bring along my deodorant, even tho I am 15 minutes from the mammogram center. You KNOW you will walk onto someone in the corridor after that you know. Don’t need to feel traumatized twice in one day. LOL!

  29. Ann says:

    Thanks for being kind about the art of Mammography. I am a registered mammographer in the US and many years ago I did only that for a living. I totally lived ate and breathed breast cancer detection. But then I moved on to doing MRI’s on kids which kept my passion the rest of my working career.

    No-it does not hurt less on fatty breasts. Fat actually hates to compress and so it is often just a tad bit more uncomfortable, but still shouldn’t hurt. Also if you drink a lot of water for a few days prior to going so you are not at all bloated. Avoiding caffeine is sometimes suggested but all that got us was some grouchy women with hideous headaches. The most comfortable mammo I ever had was last year when I had lost some weight by being very low carb. Man, it was so comfortable, I stood there are talked to my tech under compression and we both almost forgot to let up the compression plate. We always have a good chat while I am there because of a shared history.

  30. BethH says:

    Most disturbing, Linda. You must be one of the fortunate few whose lives have not been touched in some way by cancer. May God bless you.

  31. BethH says:

    I have large, dense breasts and the squishing hurts all that fatty tissue, too, in spite of having had breast reduction surgery some years ago. I take a couple of Tylenol as I pull into the parking lot, so they kick in about the time I get melded with the machine. Don’t be scared, just do it, and give yourself some little special treat afterward.

  32. mayr says:

    Always with the originals posts. LERVE!!
    I too wrote a post recently noting that if men had to have a body part( THE body part) flattened with 17 psi you can bet there would be luxurious machines created to ensure the experience was enticing and enjoyable.

  33. Diane says:

    I was laughing so hard reading this. Then…a Facebook post (below)! Too much…so I had to share!

    While conducting some business at the Courthouse, I overheard a lady, who had been arrested for assaulting a Mammogram Technician, say “Your Honor, I’m guilty but….. There were extenuating circumstances.”

    The female Judge said, sarcastically, “I’d certainly like to hear those extenuating circumstances.” I did too, so I listened as the lady told her story.

    “Your Honour, I had a mammogram appointment, which I actually kept. I was met by this perky little clipboard carrier smiling from ear to ear and she tilted her head to one side and crooned, “Hi! I’m Belinda! All I need you to do is step into this room right here, strip to the waist, then slip on this gown. Everything clear?” I’m thinking, “Belinda, try decaf. This ain’t rocket science.” Belinda then skipped away to prepare the chamber of horrors. With the right side finished, Belinda flipped me (literally) to the left and said, “Hmmmm. Can you stand on your tippy toes and lean in a tad so we can get everything?” Fine, I answered.

    I was freezing, bruised, and out of air, so why not use the remaining circulation in my legs and neck to finish me off? My body was in a holding pattern that defied gravity (with my other breast wedged between those two 4 inch pieces of square glass) when I heard and felt a zap! Complete darkness, the power was off!

    Belinda said, “Uh-oh, maintenance is working, bet they hit a snag.” Then she headed for the door. “Excuse me! You’re not leaving me in this vise grip alone are you?” I shouted. Belinda kept going and said, “Oh, you fussy puppy… The door’s wide open so you’ll have the emergency hall lights. I’ll be right back.”

    Before I could shout NOOOO! She disappeared. And that’s exactly how Bubba and Earl, “maintenance men Extraordinaire,” found me… standing on my tip-toes, half-naked with part of me dangling from the Jaws of Life and the other part smashed between glass!

    After exchanging a polite Hi, how’s it going type greeting, Bubba (or possibly Earl) asked, to my utter disbelief, if I knew the power was off. Trying to disguise my hysteria, I replied with as much calmness as possible, “Uh, yes, I did, but thanks anyway.” “OK, you take care now” Bubba replied and waved good-bye as though I’d been standing in the line at the grocery store.

    Two hours later, Belinda breezes in wearing a sheepish grin. making no attempt to suppress her amusement, she said, “Oh I am sooo sorry! The power came back on and I totally forgot about you! And silly me, I went to lunch. Are we upset?”

    And that, Your Honour, is exactly how her head ended up between clamps….” The judge could hardly contain her laughter as she said “Case Dismissed”.

  34. Heather says:

    Thanks for sharing, Karen. A few minutes of discomfort is well worth the comfort of knowing you are clear of cancer and all the real discomfort that ensues.

  35. Mel says:

    Thank you for sharing. Awareness is very important. I have best cancer in my family but I have a bunch more years before I need to start being screened. And I have giant fibrous breasts that I fear will hurt.
    While I think early detection is important, I also am a firm believer in prevention. There are many things we can do to prevent cancer even if it runs in our family. Drinking lemon water every morning, eating real food including lots of vegetables, avoiding meats and dairy that have hormones, exercising and watching the chemicals we introduce to our bodies (that deodorant may not be doing you any favours besides making you smell socially acceptable, a mix of baking soda, arrowroot powder/cornstarch and coconut oil works great). These are all things that will make our bodies a place that cancer is less likely to inhabit. I hope your test results come back okay, waiting is scary.

  36. marilyn says:

    well that was pretty amusing..i have one scheduled..my second and i am not worried about it as the first one was a piece of cake..did not hurt at all.

  37. Melinda says:

    There is no history of breast cancer in my family, but I’ve been getting annual mammograms for years. Last summer, the machine detected cancer in my right breast. Within a few weeks, surgery and radiation were over. I’m fine.

    Back when I turned 55, my doctor suggested I get a colonoscopy. A cancerous polyp was found, but the cancer hadn’t reached the colon wall yet. The doc snipped it off, did a follow-up three months later, and I’m fine.

    Get those tests, people.

  38. maggie van sickle says:

    Russian Dancer? I was thinking more on the lines of Ninja warrior. Just sayin. Have a great day Karen.

  39. Cathy Reeves says:

    Smash-o-gram time! Kind of a pain but very necessary so hats off to you for doing it and blogging about it so that others will follow as well. The women center where I go offers not only the ” lovely gown” but a wonderful white cotton robe so you do feel like you’re at a spa. Oh and also tea and coffee. The Radiologist reads it right away and send you on your way if things look good. Unfortunately if they want to see you in a room or want to take it again that’s when the nerves kick in.
    Can you even imagine a guy put in his boys in there?

  40. Thera says:

    Awareness and being pro active is always best.
    A couple of years ago (I was 41) my husband found a lump in my breast. I am neither very large nor very small, the mammogram did hurt, but not excessively and it was well worth it to find out that there were actually a few lumps that were just cysts and not cancer.
    Have your mammograms ladies, please!

  41. I’m so glad to hear that you went for a mammogram. My mom just found out on Friday that she has breast cancer that was thankfully detected early at her mammogram last month. Scary stuff but it couldn’t have been much worse if they hadn’t caught it so early.

  42. Traci says:

    I know I don’t know you personally, but you are possibly my favorite person! (After my husband and kid of course!) Thanks for always demystifying the scary things in life-from canning to boobs, you’ve got us covered!

  43. Ev Wilcox says:

    Yes! biggies mean pain!

  44. Ev Wilcox says:

    Seriously Karen, where did you get the idea the it hurts us big breasted women less? We’re talking about some big time squishing going on. Yikes! And it hurts a bunch. I do need to get one though, and Thank You for the reminder. And this was a very thoughtful post. Well done.

  45. Melissa in North Carolina says:

    What a great read, thanks. And a great reminder to get ’em checked!!!

  46. TeePee says:

    We men do have to cough but we also have to bend over and get the finger wave. All in all, still better than women when it come to this sort of things.

  47. Ella says:

    “I couldn’t do anything about it because of these stupid boobs”… They get in the way of everything!

  48. Lori Jones says:

    Well done Karen!!

  49. Melissa in North Carolina says:

    Thanks for an amusing post. Thanks also for the reminder, funny or not we must take care of our selves!

  50. Sonja says:

    I always love it when the tech says “Hold your breath.” Like I could breathe if I wanted to when getting smashed! And for those of us with dense breasts – it HURTS! No, we’re not wusses. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)

  • About Karen

  • About Karen

  • My Latest Videos

The Art of Doing Stuff