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Ouch! Is it time for a re-think on screening?

If a mammogram was a ‘manogram’ and if the more tender areas of a man’s anatomy had to be X-rayed by being clamped firmly between two unyielding metal plates, we believe that a man would by now have come up with a less painful method of soft-tissue screening.

October is Breast-Cancer Awareness Month, and we know breast-screening saves lives so, naturally, we are in favour of mammograms and breast-screening and grateful they are done through the NHS. But we definitely think that it is time for a rethink on design.

This thought popped into Jan’s head recently when she had a mammogram. As she stood, wincing with pain as each breast was clamped not once but twice in the vice-like grip of the machine used for screening, she decided it was about time a better machine was developed.




From that thought sprang the idea that if a mammogram was a ‘manogram’ (that is, that if men had to have the more tender parts of their anatomy screened in this way), we’re pretty sure that one of them would, by now, have invented a machine that caused less discomfort.

Obviously, we don’t have a solution because we don’t work in the fields of engineering or medical equipment, but we feel certain there’s a better way…engineers and medics, we’re throwing down the gauntlet!


Do you share our view that if men had to undergo screening with this type of equipment, they’d have come up with something less painful?


10 thoughts on “Ouch! Is it time for a re-think on screening?

  1. I think the anonymous breast screening radiographer has been very honest & shared her knowledge well. We should all listen and think hard on what matters. There will always be the not-so-helpful-sympathetic ones – but hopefully these are few. All of those I’ve experienced couldn’t have been nicer.
    Judith MacBeth

  2. When I had a mammogram this year, the nurse pulled me about before clamping my breast in the machine which was the most painful I have ever had. The nurse then asked me if there was something wrong with my back as it didn’t seem to bend the way she wanted it to. I told her I had curvature of the spine, but she didn’t say anything else. She was very cold and clincal.

    • Hello to everyone who’s been kind enough to comment. We really value your thoughts and experiences. SoSensational has received an email from a Breast Screening Radiographer who wishes to take part in the discussion, but would prefer not to use her name – for understable reasons. Here is what she has to say:

      “As a Breast Screening Radiographer (we’re not nurses), for the last 23 years I would like to take part in the forum discussion, but I would prefer not to show my full name. So am trying to send my thoughts this way!
      Breast screening saves lives by detecting cancer well before it can be detected by someone themselves. It’s only once every 3 years, takes 5 minutes and the majority of women, the ones you don’t hear from, say “that was ok, quite painless, thank you”.
      Only a very small minority find it painful, a lot find it tolerably uncomfortable, but understand how important it is. Unfortunately, we do not get a good attendance from first timers, aged from the late 40’s because they’ve been told how excruciating it will be. The ones we do screen are almost always astonished at how bearable it is, and I feel sad that we are missing screening people because they’ve been put off from attending. I agree that things could be improved and that a painless version of screening would be very welcome, but for the moment we work extremely hard with the equipment there is. It has definitely improved in the years I have been working in this field, and we do understand that sometimes it is not an easy examination to have. Finally, Its not actually that relevant if the radiographer has had a mammogram herself, as it is a very personal, subjective thing, she may have found it totally painless, but she will have been trained to work quickly and efficiently, and will always try to minimise any discomfort whilst achieving the best quality images.”

      It’s an important message; so thank you “Breast Screening Radiographer” for taking part.

  3. Swings and roundabouts. Having had the usual breast screening mammo’s from day 1, our practice was also targeted for earlier than the norm age group starting points, so I’ve had a few extra . Nine yrs ago I had a recall from a routine mammo – after biopsy – a 3mm DCIS ca was discovered. Having hlth insurance, & working as radiology secretary in the local private hospital, I saw the breast surgeon of choice, had a wire guided local excision, radiotherapy & annual oncology, breast surgeon checks, & mammo’s since – and for as long as required. Fingers crossed.
    As for the discomfort ( discomfort for me – rather than pain ) I’d rather that and KNOW, then miss something later.
    Its all a very emotive, individual subject, and you do need confidence in your experts.
    As for men having to undergo such tests it isn’t really comparable, so I wouldn’t give it much thought.
    Judith MacBeth

  4. I I had a partial mastectomy nearly 30 years ago ( half of my breast was saved) and have had to endure regular mammograms for all these years. I have dreaded the letter arriving, knowing how painful it was going to be. There must be a better way??!! Surely somebody in the world could invent a more sympathetic screening method.

  5. I suffer from Arthritis and find having to lift my arms and keep my shoulders in a position while the x-ray is taken, causes me more suffering, not just while having the procedure but for a while after. I am sure that this does not happen just to me. I agree men would not be happy if it was a procedure they had to ensure.

  6. There is a scanning machine, in Cardiff hospital where you face lie down on it with your boobs in corresponding holes/gaps. Your arms extended forward, aka superman. The holes will accommodate all sizes of boobs and it is a much more detailed scan than a mammogram. Whilst it does not do any crushing the injecting of coloured fluid was so painful I passed out. Though a lot of that was down to the nurse. This scan was used to see how far my cancer had spread – I was stage IV but the mammogram had not shown up
    any of it.

  7. I have a high pain threshold except when it comes to having a mammogram!! It is painful to say the least, and I have had a few in the past. I always wonder if the person doing the mammogram has actually had one done on themselves? I don’t think some of the nurses realise how painful it is unless they have had one themselves. Some of these nurses have been so considerate but the odd one or two don’t seem to believe how painful it really is. I think all nurses should have a mammogram if they are going to run the clinics. About the men – most definitely there would be a new way of screening by now if their ‘delicate parts’ were to undergo similar treatments. So, come on you medical engineers – male and female – please, please, find a new way of successful screening without the pain!!

  8. After my last mammogram I have refused to go back because it was so painful! So you are right something does have to change otherwise more women like me will vote with their feet…

    • Thanks for commenting Julie. It’s a shame it is such a painful process as it means we could put ourselves at risk by avoiding a mammogram!

So what do you think?

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