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New Mammopad Eases Discomfort Of Breast Screening

New Mammopad Eases Discomfort Of Breast Screening

The apprehension and discomfort that many women experience having a mammogram can now be largely overcome with the use of a new screening tool called a "mammopad". The pad has been developed at Stanford University to encourage more women to comply with mammography screening guidelines. There have been many studies, including a New Zealand study, that show that breast discomfort is the major reason given by women who do not return for follow up screenings.1

The Woman's Touch Mammopad is a single-use, soft, foam pad that cushions the breast on the mammography machine. It is made of radiolucent material which means that it allows the x-ray light to pass through it without affecting the image quality.

American Elisabeth Crago, now resident on the Coromandel Peninsula, ran a large hospital-based mammography programme in Eastern Pennsylvania that was one of the first in the United States to trial the mammopad last year.

The evaluation carried out by Lehigh Valley Health Network (a major tertiary care centre and teaching hospital affiliated to Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine) asked 1100 women to describe their experience with the mammopad. Eighty-six per cent reported that the pad made their mammogram more comfortable; 87 per cent wanted to use one again the following year; and half of the women were prepared to pay for the use of a mammopad if necessary.

In Californian study, involving 505 women, the three-quarters of women who reported increased comfort with the pad said it nearly halved the discomfort of previous screenings.

Elisabeth Crago, a trained nurse, says she was initially sceptical of the mammopad's benefit but she quickly became an enthusiast and since January this year has been working in an executive role for the US mammopad manufacturer, Biolucent.

"The mammopad is the first tool to be developed to help women relax when they have their screening and help them become less apprehensive. That not only reduces the discomfort that some women feel, it also helps the screening process.

"Instead of first encountering cold hard metal, the woman's breast is encased in a soft foam pad. That in itself mitigates the woman's usual initial response which is to tense up and tighten her shoulders and chest muscles, which in turn can affect the breast screen. Then the pad helps alleviate the discomfort of the compression of the metal plates on the breast as well."

The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation is currently evaluating the mammopad. It advises women aged 40 to 49 years to have annual screening mammograms and women aged 50 and over to have mammograms every two years. The Foundation says a mammogram is the single best tool available for detecting breast cancer at its earliest stage when it is the most treatable.

An American Cancer Society-backed study in Sweden, led by world-renown radiologist Dr Laszlo Tabar, found that women who received regular mammograms had 63 per cent fewer deaths from breast cancer, compared with women who did not get screened. Dr Tabar also conducted the first clinical assessment of the Mammopad in 2000, involving 763 women. Dr Tabar reported that using the cushion resulted in less discomfort for the majority of women.

The Woman's touch Mammopad is distributed in New Zealand by Obex Medical and is available through most private radiology practices around New Zealand. It comes in two sizes and ranges in cost from $10 to $14 per pad. For most women, one pad placed on the bottom plate under the breast is sufficient. A second pad can be used on the plate above the breast if necessary.

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