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Soft Pad May Make Mammograms More Comfortable (dateline July 9, 2001)

Courtesy of BioLucent, Inc.

A new pad consisting of a soft-form cushion may help relieve discomfort associated with mammograms. Yearly screening mammograms are recommended to all women 40 years of age and older to help detect breast cancer in early stages when it can more easily be treated. While only a small number of women report that mammograms are painful, fear of discomfort or pain is one of the top reasons why women do not receive yearly mammograms. Experts hope the new pad will increase comfort during the exam and encourage more women to get their annual mammograms.

Many women identify breast compression as the portion of the exam that tends to cause discomfort. Breast compression is directly responsible for the image quality of a mammogram. While compression is applied to the breast, patients typically feel firm pressure but no significant pain. Breast compression   during mammography is necessary in order to:

  • Flatten the breast so there is less tissue overlap for better visualization
  • Allow the use of a lower x-ray dose since a thinner amount of breast tissue is being imaged
  • Immobilize the breast in order to eliminate image blurriness caused by patient motion
  • Reduce x-ray scatter which also leads to image degradation

The new Woman’s Touch MammoPad manufactured by BioLucent, Inc. is a single-use, adhesive-backed cushioned pad that can be applied to both the mammographic plate and the breast compression paddle before a mammogram. Because the pad is radiolucent, it is invisible on a mammogram film. It does not obscure any breast tissue and does not cause artifacts (image distortions) on the mammogram.

The pad was created by breast surgeon Gail Lebovic, MD, of the Stanford University Hospital in Palo Alto, California. Dr. Lebovic developed the pad to encourage more women to receive their yearly mammograms. The MammoPad, which recently received clearance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), was formally launched at the annual meeting of the National Consortium of Breast Centers in March 2001.

"[Many] women are not getting regular annual mammograms," said Robert Smith, PhD, Director of Cancer Screening at the American Cancer Society, in a BioLucent press release. "Anything that can improve the comfort level of a mammogram procedure is worth pursuing," added Smith.

"The MammoPad is the first product that has been clinically shown to significantly decrease the discomfort of mammography without affecting image quality," said Lauralyn Markle, MD, Radiologist and Medical Director of the MemorialCare Breast Center at Saddleback in Laguna Hills, California, in a BioLucent press release.

To test the effectiveness of the pad, Dr. Markle conducted a study of 505 women between the ages of 40 and 70. Each woman was randomly chosen out of a pool of women who were already scheduled to receive their annual mammograms. The MammoPad was applied to the surface of both the mammographic plate and the compression paddle before the exam. Each woman received the mammogram with the pads in place for one breast and without the pads in place for the other breast to determine whether there was a difference in comfort level.

After the mammograms, 371 of the 505 patients reported that the pad reduced discomfort by at least 10%. The average reduction in discomfort with the pad was 47%. Furthermore, the pad did not interfere with image quality or cancer detection, according to Dr. Markle. Using the pad, the mammography technologists were able to increase breast compression without increasing patient discomfort.

"From a radiologist’s viewpoint, the most exciting finding in this study was the fact that the pad did not affect our ability to detect cancer," said Dr. Markle in a BioLucent press release. "But obviously for our patients, the best part was the pain reduction. They overwhelmingly said the pad improved their comfort level. Most participants told us the pad made the procedure feel ‘warmer’ and ‘softer’ as compared to having it done on a cold, hard surface without the pad," said Dr. Markle.

Because the MammoPad is new, it is not yet widely available. The pad has been studied by physicians at the Bay Area Breast Center in Palo Alto, California, the MemorialCare Breast Center at Saddleback in Laguna Hills, California, and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Women interested in receiving a mammogram with the MammoPad should contact their mammography facility and ask them to acquire the product. Mammography centers may contact BioLucent, Inc. for more information on the MammoPad (see contact information below).

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