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A gentler mammogram at many Texas Health hospitals

Women face it every year and generally don’t look forward to seeing it: The mammogram machine.

Women face it every year and generally don’t look forward to seeing it: The mammogram machine.

But now the experience doesn’t have to be as uncomfortable, with new technology at several Texas Health Resources hospitals, with more to adopt it in the coming year.

Clear, curved paddles provide pressure that’s friendlier than the old, straight-edged kind. While compression still is necessary for the imaging that can show whether a woman has a lesion in her breast, cancerous or not, the new paddles help with comfort.

“It was 100 percent better,” said Tonjua Parker, 55, a patient at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Southwest Fort Worth. “The curved edges made a difference.”

At Texas Health Arlington Memorial, an informal survey of 18 mammogram patients showed 67 percent said they experienced less pain, and 83 percent said they would ask for the same type of mammogram next year, said Jeannie Dellepiane, Breast Center lead.

Bobbi Massey, M.B.A., B.S.R.T. (R)(M), manager of breast imaging at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Allen’s Breast Center, said companies that make the new paddles worked with the concept for a while before coming up with paddles that are both comfortable and provide good results.

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“They were having trouble getting back far enough against the chest wall. We don’t want to compromise the quality of the imaging for patient comfort,” she said. “We know it’s an uncomfortable exam, but we want to make sure we’re getting all the breast tissue we can.”

The paddles, she said, are curved in a cup shape but also curved on the edges “so it helps draw tissue in.”

The center at Texas Health Allen usually sees about 800 patients a month, she said, and uses two 3D machines for mammograms. In addition to the curved paddles, she said the new 3D machines shorten the length of the mammograms from an average of four to seven minutes compared to 12 before.

Teresa Stepanski, R.T.(R)(M), C.N.-B.I., breast imaging manager at the Virginia Clay Dorman Breast Care center at Texas Health Southwest Fort Worth, said they’ve had the curved paddles for a couple of months.

“We ordered them just as soon as we heard about them,” she said.

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The center has three machines, all with curved paddles, and sees more than 1,000 patients a month.

Stepanski said the new paddles and the greater comfort they provide is key.

“Oftentimes, women will put off making an appointment for a mammogram because they may have had an uncomfortable experience with mammography,” she said. “This is a problem because it can lead to a missed cancer diagnosis.”

Other hospitals with the curved paddles include Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano, Texas Health Cleburne, Texas Health Dallas’s mobile unit and Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital. Other Texas Health hospitals hope to begin using them this year.

Texas Health Resources hospitals performed 85,653 mammograms in 2018, according to system figures.