New technology makes mammograms more comfortable, less painful

CLEVELAND, Ohio — We all know how important mammograms are in the fight against breast cancer, but they are not always the most comfortable experience.

Engineers have been working on a new device for years aimed at changing that and making the process more comfortable. University Hospitals is part of the study and the new technology could become standard in a matter of weeks. 

Several years ago, UH became the first site in Northeast Ohio to offer 3D mammograms. 

“If I compare these two images, I can actually scroll through the breast kind of like looking at different pages of a book, as opposed to just looking at the cover of the book,” explained Dr. Donna Plecha, co-director of UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital Breast Centers.

The technology is now standard care for mammographies and has been shown to not only find more cancers in the breast, but also decrease callback rates. Even so, getting a mammogram can be a very unpleasant experience. 

“Some patients won't come to get their mammogram because they're worried about the pain during the exam,” said Dr. Plecha. “Not every patient has pain. Some patients do, though.”  

Some of the complaints include pinching or pulling along the chest wall and pressure on the neck because of the paddle, which holds the breast in place during the mammogram. 

“Trying to make it as comfortable of an exam as we can I think is really important for women,” Dr. Plecha noted. 

That is where the SmartCurve paddle comes in. 

“The edges are much more curved,” Dr. Plecha explained. “It's less rectangular. It's not only curved this way but this edge is much more curved and if I put it on the slant here, you can see there's a little bit of a curve here as well.”  

Women say it makes all the difference.

According to Dr. Plecha, 95 to 98 percent of those who experienced pain with the standard paddle reported much less pain with the new SmartCurve paddle. And there is no loss in quality. 

“The images still look just as good as they do with the routine paddle as they do with the curved paddle,” she said. 

Dr. Plecha also stresses the importance of women getting screened starting at age 40 and getting them done every year.

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