This New Mammogram Technology Will (Finally!) Make Screenings Less Painful
Because less torturous screenings mean more early detection and lives saved.
There's a reason women call it the "boob squish." Getting a mammogrm-a must-do on your list of preventative health care measures-is zero fun and often quite painful. (Case in point: I know women who schedule their appointments at the same time and meet for lunch afterward in order to turn their yearly mammogram from pure torture into a sort of Girls' Day Out.)
While this temporary discomfort might seem like NBD, it's actually having serious health repercussions. A recent survey of 10,000 women conducted by market research agency Kadence International found that the fear of physical discomfort was the number-one reason for avoiding a mammogram for women who never had one. Mammograms are one of the best ways to screen for breast cancer-correctly identifying about 87 percent of women who truly have breast cancer, according to the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium-so it's troubling that so many women are avoiding them. (ICYMI, Julia Louis-Dreyfus was just diagnosed with breast cancer.)
In case you haven't had one yourself yet, a mammogram is a low-dose X-ray that allows doctors to look for changes in breast tissue. It's traditionally done by compressing breast tissue between two flat plates. (Sounds utterly fabulous, right?)
But here's some better news: Medical diagnostics manufacturer Hologic, who partnered with Kadence International for this data, just announced an innovation that may totally change the mammogram game. Their new SmartCurve technology is the first to ditch the traditional flat paddle compression system in an effort to better fit the natural shape of a woman's breasts. (Confused why it's taken so long to get to this point? So is the rest of womankind. But, hey, it's a step forward.)
"As a woman, I know firsthand that all too often, annual mammograms are considered a necessary evil," said Tracy Accardi, global vice president of research and development for Hologic, in a release. We understand the critical role the exam plays in the early detection of breast cancer, but we know how uncomfortable, and sometimes even painful, the exam can be. The associated anxiety causes many women to avoid or delay this potentially lifesaving exam, something we set out to change when developing the first-of-its-kind SmartCurve system."
Not only does this new tech make the procedure less uncomfortable, but it's also better at detecting cancer. The new SmartCurve system is part of Hologic's existing Genius 3D Mammography exam, which has been shown to detect more invasive cancers, or metastatic breast cancer, and reduce false positives. It is FDA-approved as superior to conventional 2D mammography for all women, including those with dense breasts, according to the same press release.
You can use this website to find the Genius 3D Mammography exam nearest you, though the SmartCurve system won't necessarily be available on all of these machines right away.
Luckily, this isn't the only emerging tech in the category. One teen came up with a breast cancer–detecting bra after his mom was diagnosed, and researchers may be closer to a breast cancer urine test and breast cancer vaccine. Here's hoping that breast cancer screening tech will continue to evolve-because if we have talking phones, why the hell did it take so long to get curved mammogram plates?!-so that future generations of women won't dread their yearly cancer screening.
Speaking of which, just so you're clear on when and how often you should be doing this: A woman with average breast cancer risk (someone who doesn't have one of the breast cancer genes or a family history of the disease, among other risk factors), should begin getting yearly mammograms at age 40 to 45, according to the American Cancer Society. However, you can absolutely get breast cancer at a younger age-so knowing your body and monitoring any changes is key. And in the meantime, keep up with these simple things you can do to decrease your breast cancer risk.