Nav: Home

New device may ease mammography discomfort

November 25, 2014

CHICAGO - Researchers have developed a new device that may result in more comfortable mammography for women. According to a study being presented next week at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), standardizing the pressure applied in mammography would reduce pain associated with breast compression without sacrificing image quality.

Compression of the breast is necessary in mammography to optimize image quality and minimize absorbed radiation dose. However, mechanical compression of the breast in mammography often causes discomfort and pain and deters some women from mammography screening.

An additional problem associated with compression is the variation that occurs when the technologist adjusts compression force to breast size, composition, skin tautness and pain tolerance. Over-compression, or unnecessarily high pressures during compression, is common in certain European countries, especially for women with small breasts. Over-compression occurs less frequently in the United States, where under-compression, or extremely low applied pressure, is more common.

"This means that the breast may be almost not compressed at all, which increases the risks of image quality degradation and extra radiation dose," said Woutjan Branderhorst, Ph.D., researcher in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Physics at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam.

Overall, adjustments in force can lead to substantial variation in the amount of pressure applied to the breast, ranging from less than 3 kilopascals (kPa) to greater than 30 kPa.

Dr. Branderhorst and colleagues theorized that a compression protocol based on pressure rather than force would reduce the pain and variability associated with the current force-based compression protocol. Force is the total impact of one object on another, whereas pressure is the ratio of force to the area over which it is applied.

The researchers developed a device that displays the average pressure during compression and studied its effects in a double-blinded, randomized control trial on 433 asymptomatic women scheduled for screening mammography.

Three of the four compressions for each participant were standardized to a target force of 14 dekanewtons (daN). One randomly assigned compression was standardized to a target pressure of 10 kPa.

Participants scored pain on a numerical rating scale, and three experienced breast screening radiologists indicated which images required a retake. The 10 kPa pressure did not compromise radiation dose or image quality, and, on average, the women reported it to be less painful than the 14 daN force.

The study's implications are potentially significant, Dr. Branderhorst said. There are an estimated 39 million mammography exams performed every year in the U.S. alone, which translates into more than 156 million compressions. Pressure standardization could help avoid a large amount of unnecessary pain and optimize radiation dose without adversely affecting image quality or the proportion of required retakes.

"Standardizing the applied pressure would reduce both over- and under-compression and lead to a more reproducible imaging procedure with less pain," Dr. Branderhorst said.

The device that displays average pressure is easily added to existing mammography systems, according to Dr. Branderhorst.

"Essentially, what is needed is the measurement of the contact area with the breast, which then is combined with the measured applied force to determine the average pressure in the breast," he said. "A relatively small upgrade of the compression paddle is sufficient."

Further research will be needed to determine if the 10 kPa pressure is the optimal target.

The researchers are also working on new methods to help mammography technologists improve compression through better positioning of the breast.
-end-
Co-authors on the study are Jerry E. de Groot, M.S., Mireille Broeders, Ph.D., Cornelis A. Grimbergen, Ph.D., and Gerard J. den Heeten, M.D., Ph.D.

Note: Copies of RSNA 2014 news releases and electronic images will be available online at RSNA.org/press14 beginning Monday, Dec. 1.

RSNA is an association of more than 54,000 radiologists, radiation oncologists, medical physicists and related scientists, promoting excellence in patient care and health care delivery through education, research and technologic innovation. The Society is based in Oak Brook, Ill. (RSNA.org)

For patient-friendly information on mammography, visit RadiologyInfo.org.

Radiological Society of North America

Related Mammography Articles:

Mammography screening: Only 1 in 3 women is well-informed
Only one in three women participating in Germany's mammography screening program is well-informed about it: the higher the level of education, the greater the chance of women making an informed decision.
Menopausal status a better indicator than age for mammography frequency
In a study conducted to inform American Cancer Society breast cancer screening guidelines, UC Davis researcher Diana L.
Computer-aided mammography detection not associated with improved accuracy
Computer-aided detection in screening mammography was not associated with improved diagnostic accuracy in a study that analyzed results from a large Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium database of digital screening mammograms, according to an article published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.
Mammography benefits overestimated
An in-depth review of randomized trials on screening for breast, colorectal, cervical, prostate and lung cancers, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, shows that the benefits of mammographic screening are likely to have been overestimated.
3-D mammography improves cancer detection in dense breasts
A major new study has found that digital breast tomosynthesis, also known as 3-D mammography, has the potential to significantly increase the cancer detection rate in mammography screening of women with dense breasts.
More Mammography News and Mammography Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...