For decades, mammography has stood alone as the gold standard for breast cancer screening and detection. But, being the go-to strategy for identifying the early-stage or advanced cancers isn’t enough. Work has continued to not only augment the efficacy of mammography, but to also increase its use and reach.
Industry-wide, there are efforts underway to design and implement new technologies and strategies for mammography. And, research is also revealing new ways for the modality to make an impact on saving lives.
Since its creation, mammography has largely been a one-size-fits-all technology, leading to many patient complaints about discomfort and pain. In many instances, these worries have prevented women from scheduling the screening exam. And, to increase utilization, some companies have created horizontal mammography machines; others have added heaters so paddles aren’t so cold.
But, just as each woman is different, so is each breast. One product designed to help meet individual needs is Solis Mammography’s SmartCurve by Hologic, a mammogram paddle that can provide a more personalized screening experience. The curved paddle form fits to the breast, more easily accommodating most patients.
According to Stacy Smith-Foley, MD, medical director for the Breast Center at CARTI, this technology can benefit both providers and patients. The Center has used SmartCurve as the standard for all patients since April of this year.
“On the technical side, technologists can position patients in ways that can include much more tissue than they can with a standard paddle,” she says. “And, for patients, due to the curvature of the paddle, the force of compression is more evenly distributed across the breast.”
Although the curved paddles don’t work well for capturing implant displaced views in women who have breast implants, they do offer benefits for most patients. Improve positioning for the majority of women reduces the number of images needed for diagnosis, and fewer images leads to less radiation exposure, Smith-Foley says.
Alongside the patients, she adds, SmartCurve has also offered her technologists some benefits. While the technology allows them to better position patients, it also keeps them in better ergonomic positions, as well. Their body mechanics improve, and they experience more comfort and less pain throughout the work day, she says.
National Cancer Institute statistics report nearly 60% of women will experience at least one abnormal finding on a mammogram that isn’t malignant during their lives. Being able to reduce the number of false positives in screening can also drive down the number and cost of biopsies.