Breast examinations become less painful

New compression plate for mammography certified for use in the European Union.

Within the space of 5 years, Sigmascreening – a spin-off company of Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam and also located at Kennispark Twente – has developed a new system which, besides improving quality, also makes X-rays during breast cancer examinations considerably less painful for women. The company earned an important certification for the EU this week, and has started discussions with Dutch, French, German, English and Swiss hospitals in the meantime. To date, 2000 women have undergone such breast examinations at the AMC and the new compression plate, the ‘Sensitive Sigma Paddle’, has clearly achieved the desired results. Sigmascreening now wants to quickly make this innovation available to as many women as possible.

Fear of pain
Each year, circa 150 million breast X-rays (mammograms) are carried out worldwide. Good X-rays require breast tissue to be flattened using a so-called compression plate. This can be (extremely) painful for many women and a lot of them avoid having breast exams simply because of the pain. (British research estimates this to be 20% of women worldwide). This decreases the rate of early detection, and delays medical treatment of tumours, thus decreasing women’s chances of survival.

Breast examinations better and simpler
Sigmascreening has developed a new compression plate which can be fitted to existing mammography systems. The system is innovative because it takes the size of the breast and the stiffness of breast tissue into account when the breast is being compressed. This means the force needed to create an effective image will be determined on a case by case basis. The Sensitive Sigma Paddle features sensors and an X-ray-friendly film, which allows the pressure exerted on the breast to be measured. The LED lights serve as indicators when the Sensitive Sigma Paddle is lowered onto the breast. The system ensures excessive pressure is not applied, thus preventing unnecessary pain and making the procedure more predictable. The ‘new system’ makes it easier for lab assistants to determine when sufficient pressure has been applied.

Improved participation in research
Ivo Aarninkhof, CEO of Sigmascreening: ‘The innovation has been subject to extensive scientific research and has already been put into practice at the AMC. And women have responded very positively. We are pleased to now have the opportunity to implement our innovation within the European Union and, in the interest of all women, hope this will take place soon as possible’. The research team was supervised by inventors Kees Grimbergen and Ard den Heeten: ‘It is good that women will now have to suffer less unnecessary pain during examinations, and we hope this encourages more women to participate in population surveys. As a result, cancer will be detected at an earlier stage among more women, and treatment can be implemented a lot sooner. This will help to decrease the number of deaths associated with breast cancer’.