My 3D Mammogram Experience Didn’t Suck

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Clothesline with various bras pinned to it against a clear blue sky with text above that reads "what's a 3d mammogram?" petite font dot comMy experience with a 3D mammogram just happened this week so I figured I’d share it while it’s all still fresh! In fact, I wrote this as my boobs still bore the marks from their recent pancaking. And since self-care and self-maintenance are a huge part of my Accepting Yourself Naked series, let’s talk boobs!

So what’s the difference between a regular mammogram and a 3D mammogram?

Really, not much! At least not from the tits-caught-between-plexiglass perspective. From the doctor’s point of view, there’s a huge difference. But for me and probably you, it’s about the same.

Here’s a cool video that actually explains how the 3D mammogram is different from the traditional kind:

Mammograms are fun!! You put on a chic robe, get your boobs squeezed as flat as possible, and then wait impatiently to hear if there’s anything abnormal. And then, if you’re lucky, an entire year later you get to do it all over again!

If you’re a person with breast tissue and over 40, you’ve probably done this tense dance. It was just my second time at the rodeo and they informed me it would be a 3D mammogram. Apparently it’s the new technology that American insurance companies are finally covering. Yay for prioritizing women’s health!

How is a 3D mammogram different? As you can see in the video above there is a second set of pictures, so it takes slightly longer. We’re talking just a few minutes though. You’re not standing around with your tits out forever. Because it is cold back there. (WHY is it always so cold???)

That means being smushed for just a little bit longer. Which can mean more discomfort, it’s true. You also have to hold your breath a little longer. At first, I didn’t realize how long that would be and it felt like it went on FOREVER.

In reality, it was only about 8 seconds. But it still felt like an eternity. I learned my lesson after the first time and took a huge breath before each subsequent scan.

I might be imagining it—it has been an entire year, after allbut I think the 3D mammogram pictures take a little bit longer than the regular 2D ones did. I don’t remember having to hold my breath that long the last time.

The 3D mammogram machine looks about the same as a regular one but it does tilt to get a 45-degree angle. You also have to reset your breast to be resquished for that picture, and your body is angled differently as well.

Here’s the actual process I went through. The whole thing took about 45 minutes:

  1. Arrived at the facility, dealt with the typical check-in process.
  2. Walked to the back where I was given a surprisingly nice robe. Went into a changing room, took off my top and bra, slipped into the robe (which had raglan sleeves and bias bound neckline), then locked up my clothes and purse in a locker.
  3. Sat in another waiting room. Waited. Contemplated having tea.
  4. Was taken into a small exam room with a big machine. The technician asked a few questions and sanitized the machine. Then I stood up at the machine and started the show.
  5. Took out the first boob. Placed it on a plastic shelf adjusted to my short height. The tech placed another clear plastic tray on top of it and lowered it as far it would go until the breast tissue was as flat as possible. Then lowered it just a little bit more. This is when things got uncomfortable. I couldn’t even look down at this point, but I’m pretty sure my tit was flat as a pancake.
  6. The technician stepped behind a plexiglass screen, told me to hold my breath, and then the machine made whirring noises. That was my boob’s picture being taken. For science!
  7. Tech came back, released my tender titty from the vice grip, repositioned me for the angled picture, and went through step 6 again.
  8. Repeated steps 6-7 for the other side.
  9. Boobs returned to their normal 3-dimensional roundness back inside the robe. The tech told me something about the results going to my doctor in a week or so and she’d call me if there were any issues.
  10. Changed back into my normal clothes and left.

Afterwards I felt like treating myself to something nice. I personally like a warm tea latte after my mammograms. They’re always scheduled in the fall, so it’s just kind of a perfect seasonal treat (even if summer is still lingering in this neck of the woods right now…).

All the same preparations and precautions for a regular mammogram still apply: wear a two-piece outfit so you only take off your top half, don’t wear deodorant, tell the technician if you might be pregnant, etc.

Have you had a mammogram? What was that experience like for you? Was it a traditional one or a 3d mammogram?

If you haven’t had a mammogram yet, here are some resources to prepare you for the experience:

This self-maintenance isn’t what I look forward to most. But like going to the dentist and gyno, I do it regularly. Just like I take my car in for regular oil changes and whatnot. I can trade the car in anytime, but I only get this one body. It’s worth taking care of it.

And then there’s the robe! Turns out it’s the Mammo Gown found here.

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Nov 8, 2019 10:19 am

I don’t think my mammogram was that fancy, but it also wasn’t as horrible as people seem to think. I had a great tech who explained everything to me step by step and told me that most first time mammograms come back with a result that requires a closer look because there may be shadows or other spots that are normal but the have no way if knowing because they don’t have that previous scan to look at. I didn’t know that! It went a long way in putting my mind at ease. As it turns out, they didn’t have… Read more »

Carol Taylor
Nov 9, 2019 5:49 am

It has been a while since my last one and that was akin to torture it sounds like not quite as brutal as it was..It still made me cringe and smile as I read your post and remembered 🙂