"I think it's an old wives tale that mammograms hurt," says the study's lead author Alice Domar, PhD, Director of the Mind/Body Center for Women's Health at Boston IVF and senior psychologist in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC). "Our results showed that women find mammograms to be a very benign experience."
According to the American Cancer Society, one-third to one-half of women do not follow screening guidelines for mammography, which recommend annual screenings for women over the age of 50. Previous studies had found that the majority of women who fail to return for repeat screenings following their initial mammogram cite pain during the procedure as the reason.
Knowing that relaxation techniques have been effective in reducing pain and anxiety during radiological procedures such as endoscopy, arteriography and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, the authors hypothesized that listening to a relaxation tape prior to and during mammography would decrease women's feelings of pain and anxiety and thereby improve their compliance in undergoing routine mammograms.
A total of 150 subjects were divided into three groups: those who listened to a relaxation tape, those who listened to music, and a control group, who were assigned a blank tape. The tapes were played both prior to and during the mammogram screening. When the mammogram had been completed, each subject was asked to fill out two self-report questionnaires, the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory and the McGill Pain Questionnaire, and to provide an estimate of how much pain and/or anxiety they had experienced during the test.