BreastScreen pink bus in Kyogle.
BreastScreen pink bus in Kyogle. Susanna Freymark

Why I hate having a mammogram

I'M STANDING with my left breast pressed between two parallel solid plastic plates, my arms in an ungainly position, almost hugging the mammogram machine. My left shoulder twists as the radiographer flattens the flesh of my breast to get a better image.

I hate having a mammogram. It hurts.

The plates are pressed down firm onto my breast.

This may hurt a little, the radiographer says. It does.

I look down at my breast flattened like a leftover pikelet between the see through plates.

Head up, hold your breath, don't tense your shoulder, keep you hair out of the way.

Yeah, right, don't tense up, don't breathe. Enjoy your mammogram.

Four shots of two breasts, from the top and then from the side, which requires an even more intimate position with the machine.

Did a man invent this machine? I ask when I'm allowed to breathe.

People often ask that, the woman says.

Funny that. The joys of mammography are down to Robert Egan, who in the 1950s developed a dedicated mammography unit at the University of Texas Anderson Cancer Centre.

Thanks Rob Egan for inventing the machine that flattens our breasts.
Thanks Rob Egan for inventing the machine that flattens our breasts.

When I leave the mobile BreastScreen pink bus in Stratheden St in Kyogle, waving my B Informed brochure I'm relieved that I won't have to endure a mammogram for another two years.

I must confess, its been five years since my last mammogram. I was spurred at the age of 52 to get my breasts checked after hearing my older sister found a cancerous lump in her right breast.

Breast staff (can I call them that) tell me women are reluctant to come in for a mammogram.

Maybe offer them a free cocktail, I joke.

If you are aged between 50-74 years, you should have a mammogram every two years. You don't get a cocktail. Or a certificate. Talk to any woman on the street and you'll get sympathy. A lot of sympathy.

If men had their testicles tested in a mammogram it wouldn't happen, one woman says seriously.

I only get an ultrasound, another woman says, I'm not going near that machine.

Are we being wusses? I mean its ten minutes of discomfort. But its more than that.

We don't want to find out if something wrong with our breasts. Denial is a powerful force.

Even getting women to check their breasts by hand is difficult, I'm told.

If only we were men. Like the old pub joke - if men had breasts, they'd stay home all day and play with them.

We need to play with ourselves more. Be familiar with how our breasts feel, so if something is different, we'll will be wise to the fact.

Instead we push them into badly engineered bras and go about our business until someone mentions them.

Don't get me wrong. Our breasts are fabulous. We've used them to feed our children, and to get our husbands to mow the lawn. They are womanly assets that perhaps we take for granted until ...

That is why a mammogram and checking your 'girls' is vital. Do it today.


BreastScreen NSW bus is in Bonalbo on October 8-14 and in Urbenville on October 14-16.

Book online at or cal 13 20 50.

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