Devices & Technology

A More Comfortable Mammogram? Yes!

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By Jennifer Larson, NurseZone feature writer 

Many women dread the discomfort that comes with having a mammogram. They describe the sensation of the breast scan as uncomfortable, awkward, and even painful.

Now, women have a few options that can make their annual mammogram a little easier.

The University Medical Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, is using a new mammogram machine with a feature called “Max View.” This feature is designed to give a deeper view into cellular masses to detect cancers that may be buried deep within breast tissue—cancers that might be missed by a traditional mammogram.

According to the medical center, this type of mammogram is more comfortable. The machine has sheets of plastic that fit over the top and bottom of the patient’s breast, and the plastic draws the breast into the machine for imaging.

University Medical Center spokesman Rick Plummer noted that this process alleviates the need for a technician to adjust and reposition the breast inside the machine.

“It’s a lot quicker, too,” Plummer said, explaining that the breast only remains inside the machine for a few seconds.

The Easy Compression System is another example of a new mammography system that strives to provide a more comfortable experience for a patient. It is utilized in mammogram equipment like the Performa, which is manufactured by Instrumentarium Imaging.

According to Don Blomstrom, director of mammography for Instrumentarium Imaging, the system makes use of more mobile surfaces of the breast, unlike conventional systems that press against relatively taut stretches of skin. The system has a film holder that presses against the bottom of the breast, and the technician can maneuver it up against the breast, rather than the other way around. The compression plate can also be moved.

The bi-directional compression makes it more comfortable for the patient because it is the system’s components that move around, instead of the breast, Blomstrom said.

Also, he added, it’s easier for the technician to use because they don’t have to lift the breast up and position and readjust it.

Another product on the market aims to soften the impact of the compression plates of the mammogram machine, but it’s a little lower tech.

The MammoPad is an adhesive foam cushion about the size of a mousepad. Manufactured by BioLucent, Inc., the MammoPad is designed for one-time use. The mammography tech puts the MammoPad on the surface of the compression plates to provide a softer, warmer surface for the breast and lessens the likelihood of pinching.

According to BioLucent officials, the cushion especially helps women who have had breast cancer that was treated by surgery and radiation. These women usually have scar tissue from the treatment, and the MammoPad lessens the pain of the necessary follow-up mammograms. BioLucent cites the results of a study it conducted in San Antonio, Texas last year.

The MammoPad is currently available at nearly 1,000 beast care centers in the United States. Most do not charge for the use of the cushion.  

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