NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Mammograms are proven life-savers, detecting breast cancer at early, treatable stages.

But some women find getting a mammogram to be very uncomfortable, even painful.

As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported, there’s now a device that makes them not-so-unpleasant.

Like most women, champion dog breeder Dominique Dube remembers her first mammogram.

“It was not hurting but it was, I would say, uncomfortable,” she said.

“Some patients do complain of pain and pinching and pulling of the skin when they get their mammogram,” said Dr. Donna Plecha, of the Cleveland Clinic. “And some patients – that may make them not want to come in and get their mammogram.”

In a survey of 1,200 women, nearly three out of four describe the test as mildly to severely painful. Three percent said they wouldn’t come back.

“So any way we can try to make it more comfortable for patients, I think is a good idea,” Plecha said.

The more comfortable approach is called Smart Curve.

The mammography machine is the same for regular and smart curve, but the difference is in the paddles. The smart curve has smooth, curved edges – more of a match to the contour of the breast, making compression more comfortable.

“The patient’s breast is still compressed, because we need that compression to be able to find cancers and eliminate false positives for cancers,” said Plecha.

A recent multi-center study evaluated both patient comfort and the quality of the mammograms.

“We don’t want an image that’s not going to find cancer, just because it’s more comfortable. We want to make sure it’s at least equal to the images that we get with the standard of care.”

Dube could tell a difference when she had the smart curve.

“My left breast – it’s a little bit more sensitive, because of the cyst. I said, yes, it’s true. It was less hard on me,” she said.

The study verified that smart curve produced images as good as those with conventional paddles at no additional cost.

So there’s now one less excuse to avoid having a mammogram.


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