Study: Mammograms Painless for Most Women

Finding challenges common assumptions about breast exam

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FRIDAY, Feb. 4, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- A new study suggests most women do not experience undue pain or anxiety during mammography screening, challenging a common belief that mammograms are painful.

"Our results showed that women find mammograms to be a very benign experience," said study author Alice Domar, director of the Mind/Body Center for Women's Health at Boston IVF and a senior psychologist with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

She and her colleagues studied 150 women having routine mammograms. The women were divided into three groups: One group listened to a relaxation tape during the mammogram, another group listened to music, and a control group received a blank tape.

Following their mammograms, all the women filled out questionnaires about how much pain and anxiety they experienced during the mammogram.

The study found no significant differences in terms of pain perception between any of the groups. None of the three groups reported undue distress during mammography.

"Virtually none of the participants experienced pain or anxiety. We were quite surprised at the outcome," Domar said in a prepared statement.

The study appears in the February issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology.

Domar's team hopes the findings will encourage more women to get routine mammograms. "Perhaps if women learned that . . . routine screening mammography is associated with very low levels of anxiety and pain, their fear may subside enough to comply with screening guidelines, " the study authors wrote.

The American Cancer Society estimates that one third to one half of women don't follow mammography screening guidelines, which recommend annual screenings for women over age 50.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about screening mammograms.

SOURCE: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, news release, Jan. 27, 2005

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