Mammograms are kind of an inevitability for people with breasts. They're considered the best method, in addition to breast self-exams, to detect symptoms of breast cancer for women over 50 or younger women who are at risk, though the guidelines on how often mammograms are needed are changing. One definite problem with mammograms, though, is that they can be really painful. The procedure involves placing your breasts between two flat plates, applying pressure, and scanning the breast tissue. Round breast + flat panel = who thought of this? But a new innovation involving curved mammogram plates may be beginning to make the procedure actually breast-friendly — finally.
Mammogram pain is particularly an issue if you have very small or fibrocystic breasts. (My mother, who has A cups, reported extreme difficulty getting the tissue into a position that provided a clear scan, and the technician's puzzlement about how to do it without hurting her.) Keeping breasts in place for mammograms can cause bruising, though the compression isn't dangerous for any other reason. The innovation proposed by the company behind the new mammogram plates, Hologic, seems pretty intuitive, but it marks one of the first developments in mammogram technology in quite a while, and, it's hoped, might save more lives by encouraging women not to avoid their doctor's office like the plague.