Sarah Silverman details negative experience undergoing mammogram, breast ultrasound

Comedian Sarah Silverman, 48, shared an Instagram post Thursday, Feb. 7, about numerous things that troubled her about her experience undergoing a mammogram and breast ultrasound. Women’s Health asked one specialist to provide some additional context about what Silverman went through. 

Silverman, who wrote she has to get a breast ultrasound after her mammograms because she has dense breasts, described the experience with her radiologist: 

“He opened my gown and put gel on my breasts and smeared it around with his bare hands. Then he started talking to me about my chest x-ray (I also got a chest x-ray) and was pontificating with my boobs just out and covered in gel and cold...”  

Silverman wrote she then asked if they could have the conversation during her ultrasound or when she was fully dressed. This was also not the first time the individual had used his bare hands to perform the procedure, Silverman added.  

“Again, AS I TOLD HIM LAST YEAR, I said ‘Hey! Do you need to be touching me with your fingers?’ He said ‘No.’ And he pulled them off of me. Then he added ‘I do that for balance.’ I said ‘Well I believe in you and I think you can do with without your fingers on me," she wrote.  

In a standard breast ultrasound, it is normal for a radiologist or technologist to put gel on a women’s breasts for the procedure. However, Richard Reitherman, MD, PhD, told Women’s Health that Silverman’s experience was not normal.

"Gel is applied directly from the container to the breast. The transducer is generally the only thing that touches the woman's breast,” explained Reitherman, who serves as the medical director of breast imaging at MemorialCare Breast Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. "The technologist or radiologist only uncovers the breast being ultrasounded at that moment. The other is covered. You never have both breasts uncovered.” 

He also pointed out that men, whether or not they are the radiologist or technologist, aren’t typically allowed in the room alone with a female patient during the procedure.  

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