I find this kind of embarrassing to write about but need to share in case it’s happened to anyone else out there. I recently “passed out” during a mammogram! Yes, I fully fainted. The technician ran over to catch me as I slumped forward on the machine. Her arms were full (from holding me up) so she couldn’t get to her panic button and had to scream “Help! Help!” towards the hall. Her shouts actually woke me up. A swat team of other technicians burst into the room, I was given juice and swathed in cold compresses and generally fussed over, which made me want to shrink up and disappear even more. Ugh.

About 6 years ago, as I was finishing breast feeding my daughter, I found a lump in my left breast. It turned out to be a cyst. Well, actually a cluster of small cysts kind of in the shape of a bunch of grapes. Because of its slightly “atypical” shape and my family history (my mom died of breast cancer at age 53 and my grandmother also had breast cancer) it was very thoroughly investigated…mammogram, ultrasound, MRI and finally a core biopsy to confirm that it was in fact just a cyst and not malignant. Since then, I get an annual screening mammogram and MRI to keep track of any changes.

For the past few years, these annual tests have gone quite well. I have been pleasantly surprised that having a mammogram is not that bad. I do still get stressed before each test. After all, through my work at Rethink Breast Cancer I have a daily reminder that young women get breast cancer too! But, I have a talent for stuffing down my own personal fears as I immerse myself in a world of breast cancer, breast cancer, breast cancer!

This past summer, my aunt was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. I was so shocked. My mom and grandmother were diagnosed in the 1980s and in the almost 25 years since then, both of my mom’s sisters have been fine. Breast cancer is so common that I was convinced that my mom and grandmother were probably random cases, which gave me great comfort regarding my own risk. Suddenly, my aunt was facing treatment and getting genetic testing.

As soon as my aunt was diagnosed I started to feel “weird” on my left side. My left breast seemed extremely tender and painful under my armpit and more swollen during my cycle. I became hyper-aware of “the lump” and I just had an overwhelming feeling that something was wrong. So, I got an appointment for a mammogram to have it checked out.

I was definitely scared that morning as I headed into the little mammography screening room. But, typical me, I tried to cover up any fear and chit-chatted away with the technician, cool as a cucumber as she arranged me up on the machine. She did my right breast first and OMG did it hurt!! I’d never experienced pain from a mammogram before and was shocked at the excruciating pain. As she prepared to “squeeze” the left breast (the one we’ve been “tracking” for years; the one I’d become suddenly convinced was harbouring a cancerous tumour), I felt myself starting to sweat even more. Why did I wear a skirt and high heel sandals instead of sneakers and lulus? She asked me to hold my breath as she took the image. I remember a feeling of dread as I thought “this is it” and then suddenly thinking “I feel like I’m going to faint.” Apparently I said this out loud which (fortunately) gave the technician enough time to get to me and catch me as I passed out.

We decided it was a combination of extreme anxiety and extreme pain that caused me to faint. The technician that came in to take over post my mamm-o-meltdown was a total mother hen. She’s kind of the head honcho of the screening unit. She arranged for me to sit in a chair for the two side pictures that still needed to be taken. When she squeezed, it was just a squeeze and not an “OMG this is worse than child birth” situation. She said there is absolutely no reason for a mammogram to hurt.

So, the takeaways I want to leave you with:

1)If you are nervous, let the technician know (not a time to fake it ‘til you make it)

2)If the mammogram is super painful, the technician is doing something wrong. It should feel like a firm squeeze but should not hurt.

While I was rattled from my experience, I was back at work the next day. Although I had been preparing myself for bad news, I was still caught off guard when I got the dreaded “call back” from the hospital. They saw something on the mammogram that they didn’t like and wanted me to have another mammogram and ultrasound. Eeeek!

When I arrived for this follow-up screening, I pounced on the mother-hen technician when I checked in and insisted that I needed her to do my imaging. She took excellent care of me and the mammogram didn’t hurt a bit. Best of all, I was told that upon further investigation, everything looked good.

MAJOR WHEW!!

I’d love to hear your mammogram stories. Has anyone else out there fainted during a mammogram? Let me know if you found your mammogram painful or not too bad.

34 COMMENTS

  1. My first mammo was, in a word, traumatic. After finding a small lump myself my GP sent me for one but the technician refused to do it. I was only 24 and she said I shouldn’t have it done and there was no point and basically handed me off to someone else. It hurt – a lot – and the tests came back inconclusive. After having a biopsy to get a better idea about what it was, turns out it was breast cancer afterall. I’m doing awesome now and still feel inclined to go back there and slap some sense into that technician. The mammos I had after that at sunnybrook were great, like you said, if they do it right there shouldn’t be any pain.

  2. Coming from a family where breast cancer is prevalent, I have been getting yearly mammograms since I was 35(I am now 49), and although not my favorite test to have performed, I have never experienced any problems with pain, discomfort, or fainting.

    That is, until today…

    I went for my annual mammogram as usual, to the same facility I have been going for the past 14 years, and did not feel any more anxious than I’ve ever felt in the past. However, knowing that both my mother and sister were diagnosed with breast cancer in their 50’s, and I will be hitting that magic number this year, perhaps that was playing on my mind.

    Not unlike Ms. DeCouteau, I also masked my anxiety by making small talk with the technician, joking and acting as though it were no big deal. Several minutes into the testing I began to feel queasy, but thought it was due to it being so incredibly hot in the exam room, and from being a bit disoriented from being twisted and turned into position. After each request to hold my breath, I felt more and more queasy. I actually thought I was about to throw up – passing out did not even occur to me! The straw that broke the camel’s back, as it were, was when the technician told me she had to redo one of the images, as she felt it did not come out as well as she’d hoped. I made it through the final imaging, but began to worry that she had actually seen something she didn’t like and wanted a better look. Suddenly, I began to sweat, my legs began shaking, and I had just enough time to say “I’m not feeling very well” before everything went dark. I don’t know for how long I was out, but I awoke with three people around me, cradling my head and asking me if I was OK. I asked them what happened and they said I blacked out. They helped me into a chair, offered me juice, and stayed with me until they were convinced I was better. One of them even asked me if I wanted an ambulance to be called just to be on the safe side, but I assured her I wasn’t hurt (other than my pride). After a few more minutes, two of the people left and the technician remained in the room with me until I got dressed. She asked me if I wanted someone to come and pick me up and I once again assured her I was ok – which I was. I just felt shaken and a little unnerved by the whole situation.

    I’m hoping this was just an isolated incident!

  3. Just came from a “routine mammogram”. Yep, I passed out. Of course, mammograms are always quite painful for me. In the past, however, they’ve been tolerable.

    But, today’s was excruciating. I actually moaned from the pain. After pictures in all four positions, the technician said she needed to do the left breast again. I don’t know if this upset me more than I realized, or I couldn’t take anymore pain, but after she positioned me and started the picture, I said, “I’m going to pass out.”

    That’s the last thing I remember until I came to in her arms. She was holding and shaking me. I didn’t know where I was for a minute or two.

    The technician said she had stopped the procedure. She didn’t call for any help, but got me some water. I drank the water and after 5 minutes or so, was able to do the re-takes on right and left breast that she wanted.

    I don’t know if she was particularly rough. I was at the right time of my cycle and had no breast tenderness when I went in.

    It has sure put me off the whole procedure. A simple search on the internet turned up a case of a woman who fainted but was not caught by the technician. She hit her head on the tile floor and suffered a major brain injury, leaving her a vegetable for the rest of her life. Her husband was suing the hospital for $15 million. Scary.

    So, I’m grateful the technician caught me as I went down. I’m sure it helped that I announced I was going to pass out before I actually fell.

    I guess I’ll have a mammogram again because it’s not as scary as cancer. But, I’m going to insist that the technician take the process at a slower pace, letting me breath and sip some water between pictures.

    I, too, feel shaken. I’m taking it easy tonight.

    Thanks for blogging about this. It’s possible that fainting happens more often than radiologists would like us to know!

  4. Hi i just came from a biopsy and a mammmogram, and passed out. Woke up layingon the floor with smelling salts.That was the weirdest thing.It did not hurt and i did not feel faint until the mammogram. This is the seconf=d time i have become dizzy during this time but this time i actually blacked out

  5. I went in today and felt fine. My left breast has been poked and protted at for months.. biposies and metal clips, ultrasounds…. exams. I was standing there in 5 inch heels not thinking much of it and as she squeezed the left breast the pain was blinding… I felt clammy and faint, feeling like that in the past I thought I could get thru it, but next thing I knew I was laying on the floor. Thank goodness the tech was close enough to break my fall. They’ve also called 8 times since I’ve been home asking if I’m ok. After the mammogram I had an ultrasound and was able to relax… but I’m only 29, it was my first mammogram… long family history of cancer. Guess passing out is better than finding I’ve got cancer… however it was a terrible first mammogram and will have them do the nest while sitting down.

  6. I’m 35, first mammogram yesterday. I was nervous going in because this was my first mammogram, my mom had breast cancer 6 years ago, and I was being screened because I have an “unusual” rash on my left breast. I don’t like needles and have passed out after blood draws in the past, but it never even crossed my mind that I would have trouble with a mammogram!
    Anyway, I made it through the first 2 images with no problem, in fact was pleasantly surprised that the pain wasn’t as bad as I’d anticipated. I got all positioned for the 3rd image and the tech had just started the process when my face started to tingle and my vision narrowed. I told her “I feel really light-headed” and don’t remember anything after that until I woke up on the floor with my tech and a nurse. (the nurse who took care of my mom, which didn’t do a lot to calm me down.) After recovering, I was able to finish the last 2 images and get dressed, but I *really* hope I don’t need any follow-up imaging. I don’t want to do this more than once a year…

  7. I too passed out during my last mammogram.weird! Didn’t know it was coming and have never passed out before, ever. Now im dreading going back!

  8. my last mammogram was on 3/30/2012. I was in excrutiating pain. Never before have I had pain. This was horrible. I didn’t pass out but came close. I am considering not going thru this torture again. There has to be a better way.

  9. I was glad/sad to hear this happened to other people! I thought something was wrong with me. I have. done 3 mammograms. I felt dizzy the first time after I was finished. I thought it was just a hot room and holding my breath. The second time was fine. This morning I warned the technician I had problems before.. She started with the right breast and I have never had it hurt that much. II told her that it hurt and asked why. She started to describe in detail why it had to be done while she started on the left side. My vision started to go dark. I said I think I’m going to pass out, you need to stop. She kept on going! I had to yell at her to stop. I almost walked out but I have a family history and know how important it is to get done. Next time it hurts that much, I’m asking for a new tech.

  10. Thanks for posting this. I went for a mammogram this morning for the first time and nearly passed out after the first picture. Was feeling kind of dizzy. I asked to sit and for water. Was then better and went for the second picture, same thing happened. The technician then tried to go faster and do the 3rd and 4th picture without recovery time in between but by the time it was done, although I was standing I couldn’t really move or I thought I would fall, I think she was holding me (I can’t even remember for sure), I had my eyes opened but it was nearly fully black, I sensed there was somebody else in the room but couldn’t see. My vision started to come back and I started to see a shape. There was another woman there. Then I sat down and it still took time to recover and i could feel all my cells in my arms, legs, etc started to vibrate. The technician said she had never had such a reaction in 10 years of working there and then searching if anybody had this experience, I found this page. Thanks for everything who shared. I do wonder if it can be somehow related to the machine/… As my body is typically quite sensitive. And/or emotional… Thanks all and stay well. Love and blessings to all.

  11. So relieved to have found this thread. I had my first mammogram yesterday and passed out. The pain in my left breast being squeezed into the machine was excruciating. I was made to feel it was just me and I need to put up with it.
    It took quite a while for me to feel able to stand up. On the second try she had me sit in a chair. As soon as I was asked to hold my breath I could feel myself going again.
    After this episode we stopped and I was wheeled to another room. My husband was called as I was just not feeling better.
    My exam was incomplete and I have to go back.

  12. Wow, I’m so grateful to see I’m not the only one that this has happened to. I’m 41, and had my first mammogram 17 months ago. I passed out during that one, and today I passed out again. They managed to get the ultrasound done, but I had to reschedule the mammogram for next week. I do have cysts in the left breast, and have for many years. I really didn’t think I was that anxious about the whole thing. Thank you all for sharing your experiences, I hope I can get thru next week!!

  13. I’m relieved now that I’m reading that someone else passed out during a mammogram.
    I have to say that my first experience was absolutely painful. I have very small breast. the technician was literally pulling my skin and flattening it to get the right position. I’m glad that they didn’t take a picture of my face, it would reveal every facial line I have.LOL.

    They found two benign micro-calcifications and I have to do another mammogram in 6 months monitor any change.

    I hope next time I’m more prepare to cope the pain . It was embarrassing.

  14. Its great we all do our mammograms and a necessary evil, but I too pass out each time. I wish there was a better way. It happened to me about six years ago first time and of course because I had such a bad experience each subsequent appointment is nervewracking. Last week at my mammogram I was scared but OK until my left breast and the press from the side, which squashed a hormone lump I have inside. It left me sweating, shaking and in pain and close to pass out again. In the past I have had an ultrasound after the mammogram and is much more pleasant I often wonder why they dont just do the ultrasound first, I imagine it is because it is too expensive or not thorough enough. Its really not great that each experience is traumatic and memorable for the wrong reason it makes me wonder if some women would not take part again in a mammogram. I know I will continue to go but it is a dreadful experience

  15. Yep. Always hurts…am old enough that I need to go every year, but don’t. Have had it done 3 times. Fainted the last two times. This last time, I told the technician in advance that I faint, but she didn’t offer to use a chair or have anyone else in the room or anything. I blacked out before the technician knew what was happening and ended up hitting my head on the plate on the way down. They insisted on sending me to ER. They charged me extra for ER too. I’m not getting screened again. There has GOT to be a better way. I have “extremely dense” breasts and have had someone use an ultrasound once.

  16. So glad I found this site as I don’t feel half as stupid now ! I had my 1st mammogram this morning, I wasnt nervous at all. Had my first 2 photos & they hurt like hell, asked if the room was too hot as I felt like I was sweating but was told it wasn’t. Had my 3rd one & had to tell the lady I felt sick, had a sit down for a couple of mins & then said I felt ok to have the final one. The lady went to take the picture & I remember feeling woozy, next thing I woke up on the floor with 2 nurses with me. Think I must have dragged my boob out of the machine & then banged my knee on the machine as I fell & my bum on the floor as she couldn’t catch me in time. Just wanted to get dressed & get out of the place, hoping she managed to get the 4th pic &that I don’t get called back

  17. I’m glad I found this web site too! I had my first mammogram end of December. It was incredibly painful, my breasted hurt for over a week after the test. I blacked out with no warning during the third image. I remember trying to take a breath just before the warning to hold my breath. I was clamped so tight to my rib cage that I couldn’t get a breath. The technician told me she had to pry my fingers off the bar. Next thing I know I’m on he floor. I had to go back for more tests , this time at a hospital. I told the technician I blacked out during the test, she didn’t seem too concerned. I felt sick after the image and had to rest for minute. Thought I was fine and said I could proceed. With no warning I passed out during the second image. I felt horrible, could not open my eyes but could hear commotion going on around me and he tech saying stay with me. Then they insisted on checking me into ER, I was there for 3 hours, got hooked up to an IV. I was told that I was checked into ER because my heart rate was at 40. I still felt horrible after being released and went back to the testing area where the tech insisted I finish, but could sit down and have a second tech. Helping. It was bearable because the process was much faster with the second tech… I think the passing out has to do with not being able to breath for a long period.

  18. I fainted during a mammogram in January 2011. I had had mammograms before and they were tolerable. This time it was excruciating. I think the technician was very rough and insensitive. My left breast was between the plates when I felt faint. I said, I am going to pass out”. The next thing I remember was being in the arms of the technician. The technician got me in a chair and got me some water. It was clear she did not want any of her colleagues to know. What happened. I was so unnerved I didn’t complain. I actually tolerated a redo of the left breast pictures and then left. I had never fainted before and have not done so since. The mammogram was fine as all my prior ones had been.

    Here is the troubling thing. In March 2013, I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer in my left breast. I have no family history, never had cysts or other issues, and never had a suspicious mammogram prior to my diagnosis.

    Of course I will never know, but I can’t help wondering if the mammogram on my left breast that was so excruciating that I fainted caused some kind if inflammation that set the stage for breast cancer to develop a few months later.

  19. Yes, it happened to me today. I am going to have my period about one week from now and my breasts were very tender. Also, I am just recovering from the flu, so the combination of both: weakness from the sickness plus the pain of the mammogram associated with already painful breasts, were not a good combination at all.
    I will know better next time I have to get another one done and don’t recommend any woman to have a mammogram while recovering from being sick or right before your period.

    • I fainted yesterday during a mammogram! Googled the phrase and ended up here. Grateful I’m not alone…but wish I’d alerted my technician because I have some nasty bruises and scrapes.

  20. Just had my first general screening and passed out in the middle of the third picture. Hit my head on the floor because she wasn’t close enough to catch me. I feel ok now but seeing that I’m not the only one makes me feel much better!

  21. I just had my first mammogram and fainted as well. My friends said it would feel uncomfortable. I expected that. But what I didn’t expect was the white-hot pain that I felt. During the second image I could feel that I was getting nauseous. It was on the third film that I remember saying I feel like like I’m going to faint. I held onto the machine until I was caught by the technician. My hearing was like listening through a tunnel, my mouth was dry, I was cold and clammy, and every time I opened my eyes, I saw an explosion of red spots. I asked for water and was in and out of it until they laid me down on a gurney. All I could think was “I do not want to come back.” So after my head cleared, I stood up and told them to take the final film. I’m praying for good results, because I may need a valium whenever I need to return. This was not the experience I was expecting.

  22. I’m so glad I found this site! I felt like a lunatic when I passed out during my first mammogeam a few months ago. I was thirty and had to go because of family history…mom aunt and both grandmothers had it. It didn’t help that the technician kept telling me I shouldn’t be having one at my age! Anyway I made it through the first picture but the pain was horrible. I told her I wasn’t feeling good so she gave me a minute to sit. Like an idiot I told her I was ready to continue but by that point my nerves were shot. During the next picture I started getting hot and dizzy but I kept holding on. The second the clamp released I fainted. Luckily I managed to wait until the machine had let go of me! I woke up on the floor with my technician yelling for help. I immediately started crying from sheer embaressment. After awhile I felt ok and still had to finish my exam. Another technician stood behind me holding me and talked me through it and was wonderful. I left feeling like a nut because all the women at the front desk were staring at me since I had caused all the comotion. It was a horrible experience and I’m dreading my next one even though it’s in five years! Just wanted to thank everyone for sharing their stories! It really made me feel better to know we’re all going through this craziness together!

  23. I am so glad I ran across this website, because my story is exactly like so many here. Hurt really bad,got to the third picture, and started to feel funny. I told her I was feeling really weird, and kinda sick suddenly. I said I think I need to sit down. So the technician stopped and got me a cool cloth and some water. Well, a min or so later, I was throwing up in the bathroom and feeling all clammy! It was weird, so she had me go across the hall for a min and sitting in the chair everything went black for about 5-10 seconds, then stared fading back in. So, as I vomited once more in the garbage can, she said, I think you need to lie down. So she took me back to the back and after throwing up the rest of the water, I suddenly started coming around. She said she had all she needed, and then on with the ultrasound. Whew, I was glad that was over. It was my second mammogram and the first one was nothing like this! Really makes you never want to return! :) Thankful, I am not the only one. I said to the tech, I hope I’m not the first to have that kind of a reaction! She just kinda smiled LOL so….I am glad to see I am not alone (although unfortunate for all of us!)

  24. I was so embarrassed at fainting, but the pain was not tolerable this time around. The propaganda line that each person experiences pain differently is fed to women because, truthfully, the capability of each technician varies wildly. Unfortunately my tech was incompetent. I was in shock from the amount of pain and corresponding time it took to photograph my breasts. Women’s medicine always gets the cheap end of the stick and then we’re told we have to tolerate it just because that’s all they have for us. This is not a comical issue.

  25. I fainted after my first mammogram and found the pain intolerable. Since then I haven’t been back when they called for me. However, I feel as if I should this time and have just received an appointment for 2 weeks time. I rang in and was told rather brusquely to take two paracetamols (as if that is going to help!). I’m really anxious and I’m thinking of cancelling it. Its strange because I have a very good pain threshold usually.

  26. Thank you so much for sharing. Almost this exact situation happened to me today. I waited 1 1/2 years between appointments. I got mastitis and I was having a diagnostic mammogram because they found lumps. Mammograms are painful for me when I”m healthy. I was terrified I would pass out from the pain. The mammogram actually did not hurt much. The tech warned me about fainting. I even sat down once. Then I thought I could push through. DON”T TRY IT. I woke up on the floor, not knowing where I was. with 6 people over me. I was too out of it to be embarrassed at first. They decided to take only 2 images per side and followed up with the ultrasound. I got the results right away, All cysts, no cancer. Ladies, don’t wait, get your regular exams (on time).

  27. I am a 60 year old woman and have had many mammograms in the past, a bit painful but nothing too bad. Today the pain was terrible, after the third x-ray I felt a little faint and I was given a chair for a few minutes. I was asked if I felt alright and agreed to have the last one, again really painful, it all went black and I found myself on the floor with the operator behind me and wondered how I got there. The lady said she hadn’t had a fainter for ages and said at the least the photos were beautiful. She gave me my clothes so I could get dressed and I asked for a drink. I was given some water and then helped up and out to my husband in our car. I’m really not sure if I could go through that again. It has really put me off.

  28. I had my first mammogram today at age 35. I was not nervous at all. But, during the test I started feeling really hot, the room turned black, and I had trouble breathing. The tech was very nice to me. She sat me in a chair, gave me some water, and put cold compresses on my forehead and neck. She helped me breathe and stay calm so I never fully fainted. Then, she let me sit in the chair for the rest of the test and I was fine. She told me next time I come to let them know I almost fainted and they will let me stay seated during the test and will be ready with water and cd compresses in case. I think I will also wear shorts and perhaps hold a mini fan next time.

  29. I can totally understand fainting in the mammography room. I’ve fainted twice in a year and a half since I was diagnosed. First time in chair before chemo and second time at naturalpaths office. Our brains get overwhelmed with what’s happening. Thank God you weren’t hurt. Breathe. Since I’ve now had a bilateral mastectomy I will no longer have mammograms. But feel that thermography i a better choice.

  30. I fainted today at my mammogram. It was my forth and I’ve never had an issue. The room was too warm and she was making me hold my breath for too long – much longer than my previous exams. After each image, I stressed that I was becoming hot and dizzy. Between takes, I splashed water on my face and even sat with my head between my legs. After the 4th and last image I was released from the machine and everything went gray. It felt as if the world disappeared. I came to and didn’t know where I was or what I was doing. It was really horrifying. Later, a different technician who did my ultra sound said, “yeah, that machine requires you to hold your breath longer”. Needless to say I won’t be going back to that center.

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