Mammograms ~ You Have Options

Mammogram options

My first mammogram was one of the worst days of my life. To make matters worse, it was my anniversary. It was so traumatic for me that I spent the whole next year dreading the next mammogram. I did everything I could do to skip having mammograms. This is NOT a good idea. I didn’t know it at the time but I have fibromyalgia – a sensitivity syndrome that makes everything more painful than it should be. But I have learned that I have options, so now I share these with you.

Traditional Mammogram

Elias Alacorn at

Mammogram: An X-ray of the breast that is taken with a device that compresses and flattens the breast. A mammogram can help a health professional decide whether a lump in the breast is a gland, a harmless cyst, or a tumor. A mammogram can cause pressure, discomfort, and some soreness that lasts for a little while after the procedure.

That’s the medical description. Here’s my description…. they place your breast between two plates. The plates come together and squeeze your breast to take a picture of the tissue. I’m not sure this was the cause, but I am short and I think that the machine was not only squeezing my breast but also pulling it upward. It doesn’t take that long but, for me, it was way too long.

Genius™ 3D Mammography

image credit Mayo Clinic

A 3D mammogram (breast tomosynthesis) is an imaging test that combines multiple breast X-rays to create a three-dimensional picture of the breast.

A 3D mammogram is used to look for breast cancer in people who have no signs or symptoms. It can also be used to investigate the cause of breast problems, such as a breast mass, pain, and nipple discharge.

When used for breast cancer screening, 3D mammogram machines create 3D images and standard 2D mammogram images. Studies show that combining 3D mammograms with standard mammograms reduces the need for additional imaging and slightly increases the number of cancers detected during screening. But more study is needed to understand whether 3D mammograms may reduce the risk of dying of breast cancer more than a standard mammogram alone.

I have heard of these but didn’t realize that it may be a more comfortable way to get your imaging completed. Looks like something to look into. It takes a bit longer to get the image, so this would be something to consider for those of use with pain issues. How long can you deal with the pain?


Thermography is a test that uses an infrared camera to detect heat patterns and blood flow in body tissues.

Digital infrared thermal imaging (DITI) is the type of thermography that’s used to diagnose breast cancer. DITI reveals temperature differences on the surface of the breasts to diagnose breast cancer.

The idea behind this test is that, as cancer cells multiply, they need more oxygen-rich blood to grow. When blood flow to the tumor increases, the temperature around it rises.

One advantage is that thermography doesn’t give off radiation like mammography, which uses low-dose X-rays to take pictures from inside the breasts. However, thermography isn’t as effective Trusted Source as mammography at detecting breast cancer.

Not considered a good way to detect cancer. False-positive results can sometimes result because other issues could be causing the inflammation. Suggested only for women under 50 who have dense tissue. This is obviously a non-evasive procedure unlike the mammogram but the mammogram is a much better detector. You will find it difficult to get insurance to cover this procedure and probably have to drive a few hours to find a place that has the thermograph.

Since it shows changes in your breast. I’ve thought it would be good to start early in your twenties to have a base picture to look at. But again, read more at Healthline for more information.

Breast Ultrasound

Photo credit: Herscan

Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves rather than radiation to produce pictures of the breast.

For the procedure, some gel will be placed on your skin. Then a small transducer will be guided over your breast. The pictures will appear on a screen.

This is a painless procedure that typically doesn’t cause side effects.

Ultrasound of the breast may be used after an abnormal mammogram or in women with dense breast tissue. It’s not usually used in routine breast cancer screening for women at average risk.

I have opted for this one the past two years. No pain to speak of. Since Fibro is an issue where pain arises from pressure, one can feel some tenderness in some parts of the breast. But this option is much better for my situation. Your insurance will probably approve the procedure but you may have a deductible or co-pay.

Check into Herscan that travels around some states doing this procedure. They have a fee which is about what your co-pay for an ultrasound would be.

Water Mammogram

water mammogram
image credit

You’re lying face down on a massage table, your breast encased in a water bath through an opening in the table. Tiny ports from a surrounding ring fire ultrasound waves. There are no X-rays and no pain. There is no holding still for 20 minutes or more.

Water Mammogram is a relatively new option. My PCP told me about it. I haven’t tried it yet. The above link is an article about it. It seems to be just as helpful as the traditional mammogram. I may try it next time.

Other Options for Mammogram

As I researched these options today, I saw that Mayo Clinic has an article on Molecular Breast imaging. I’ve not heard about this one before. It seems to use dye and imaging. See more info at Mayo Clinic article.

Healthline also discusses several options.

Hopefully, you will find an option that is less evasive for you. It’s been a great help for me. Otherwise, I would not be getting checked at all.

Feeling Your Pain;


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About Mandy Farmer

Pastor's Wife (retired) &  Chronic Pain Warrior blogs about how to make it through anything by relating her own life experiences to her writing. She is passionate about her love for the Lord and desires to spread that passion to others. She has a great desire to encourage women who are following behind her.

View all posts by Mandy Farmer

2 Comments on “Mammograms ~ You Have Options”

  1. Dear Mandy,
    Thank you for this great information. I didn’t know that you could ask for an ultrasound if the regular mammogram is too painful. My medical system has switched to the 3D imaging for the last 2 years, and it is much less painful than the original plate type x-ray. I was so thankful for the newer machines, but I will definitely ask my PCP about the ultrasound option. Blessings and prayer for you tonight, dear sister.

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