Ask most women and they’ll confess that mammograms aren’t just unpleasant. They can be downright painful.
Data from studies on mammography pain and discomfort differ, but in a 2008 review, up to 35 percent of women reported pain from the procedure, according to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Although many just deal with it, others may delay or avoid mammograms entirely.
The discomfort or pain in mammography comes from breast compression. This breast compression is necessary to optimize image quality and minimize the radiation dose, according to ScienceDaily.com.
Now, that could change.
Dutch researchers have developed a device that may reduce mammogram pain and discomfort, and preserve the image quality.
Dr. Woutjan Branderhorst, who is one of the creators of this device, and a clinical application scientist at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam said that mammograms come with a lot of variability.
That’s due to two reasons: variability in breast shape, size and sensitivity among women, and in how mammogram technologists operate, wrote Fred Hutch News Service.
Currently, mammographers can only estimate the pressure applied to the breasts, Branderhorst was reported as saying on HealthDay News. The new device would allow for standardizing the pressure across the board. This will keep the breast from being over- or under-compressed, thus reducing the pain and discomfort.
The new device attaches to the mammogram machine’s paddles and uses a thin transparent foil to measure the size of the contact area between a woman’s breast and the machine paddles.
Then the device reads a number to the technologist to reach a standard amount of compression pressure, eliminating some of the variation.
The result is a less uncomfortable procedure since high, painful pressures are avoided.
In their study, Branderhorst and his team performed routine mammograms on more than 400 women. They theorized that a procedure based on pressure, not force, would make the tests more comfortable, HealthDay News reported.
There are four breast compressions in a typical mammogram.