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Breast Physician says during mammogram, breast compression equals better health outcomes


October is Global Breast Cancer Awareness Month and The Sunshine Coast Private Hospital at Buderim’s Breast Physician is urging women to not delay their regular mammogram if they feel uncomfortable with the level of breast compression during the screen.

Dr Colleen O’Sullivan, Director of The Sunshine Coast Private Hospital’s Breast Clinic, said she regularly sees patients who are referred for a mammogram and are concerned about the compression of their breast tissue.

“I have seen many women who have heard anecdotes about the discomfort associated with the procedure and subsequently they are anxious about having a mammogram and have avoided the examination for some time,” Dr O’Sullivan said.

“I believe it’s very important that women understand why breast compression during a mammogram is absolutely necessary and in doing so I hope that it encourages more women to undertake this important screen,” she said.

Dr O’Sullivan said compression during a mammogram provides crucial care because it enables high quality images due to the restricted movement; improved accuracy by decreasing the number of false densities that can potentially appear; and improved patient safety due to reducing the already very low dose of radiation received during the procedure.

According to Cancer Australia, breast cancer is the most common cancer among Australian women with one in eight women diagnosed by the time they turn 85.

“Early detection, through being aware of breast changes and undergoing screening mammography on a regular basis, leads to improved survival rates and treatment options which is why I urge women to undertake this test regularly,” Dr O’Sullivan said.

“During a mammogram, breasts are compressed for the minimum amount of time possible – approximately 10 seconds for each image – and I find that most women wonder what the fuss was all about after their screen is complete,” she said.

Dr O’Sullivan said that for women who have very sensitive breast tissue, taking some simple analgesia such as paracetamol prior to their mammogram can ease any discomfort they experience with compression. For women who are premenopausal, Dr O’Sullivan recommends timing a mammogram to avoid their premenstrual phase.

The Sunshine Coast Private Hospital launched the Sunshine Coast’s first comprehensive Breast Clinic in 2015.

The service provides same day screening and diagnosis and offers the latest technology 3D mammography which gives significantly more information than a standard mammogram.

The Breast Clinic is modelled on the renowned Wesley Hospital Breast Clinic in Brisbane, a sister organisation of The Sunshine Coast Private Hospital at Buderim. Both hospitals are part of UnitingCare Health, one of the largest not-for-profit private hospital groups in Queensland.

For more information on The Sunshine Coast Private Hospital Breast Clinic, visit or phone 5452 0500.

More information about the benefits of the compression during a breast mammogram is detailed below:

1. High quality images due to the restricted movement - Because breasts are attached to the chest, they are very mobile when a woman breathes. By compressing the breast when a mammogram is taken, movement is restricted resulting in the crisp images that are paramount for expert interpretation.

2. Improved accuracy - Because mammograms are X-rays of soft tissues, without compression, pieces of breast tissue may superimpose creating false densities that appear concerning. By compressing the breasts, the pieces of breast tissue are spread apart resulting in improved accuracy when interpreting the images.

3. Improved patient safety - Modern mammography uses very low dose radiation. Whenever X-rays are used in medical imaging, safety precautions dictate that we should use the lowest dose possible while still achieving diagnostic images. Therefore, breast tissue is compressed during mammography to minimise the already very low dose of radiation received during the procedure.