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Putting Control Of Mammograms In Women’s Hands, Literally

A first-in-industry mammogram with a remote control device addresses pain and anxiety by allowing women to adjust their own compression

The best chance of early detection of breast cancer is a mammogram. Evidence shows that finding breast cancer early reduces a woman’s risk of dying from the disease by 25-30 percent or more.[1] But for many women, the number one reason they don´t schedule a mammogram is because of the fear and anxiety from the potential result and exam discomfort.

That’s why a team of female engineers and designers in Paris came together to design new mammography technology – technology that they would want to be scanned on.

Inside GE Healthcare’s imaging technology center in the town of Buc, located just outside of Paris, Industrial Designer Aurelie Boudier brought a team of women together to bring their unique insights as patients to answer one question: how do we design a more comfortable mammogram? Their vision would eventually turn into a new mammography system unlike any others, one designed specifically with comfort in mind.

“My challenge was how to totally change the perception of mammography, especially for the patient, and increase compliance,” Boudier says.

The result is a completely redesigned mammography system, Senographe Pristina, that now features an option to use a first-in-industry patient-assisted compression remote control to enable the patient, with the help of a technologist, to set the compression that feels right for her.

The handheld wireless remote control, called Pristina Dueta, allows patients to adjust the compression force after breast positioning. The technologist then guides the patient while she operates the remote control to adjust compression until she reaches an adequate compression level.

“The design strives to minimize women’s perceived pain and discomfort by giving them an active role in the application of compression,” Boudier says.

In a patient satisfaction study conducted with 160 patients in two sites in Europe, when a patient experienced a Senographe Pristina exam coupled with Pristina Dueta, 79 percent of the patients who used the patient-assisted compression device found it improved the comfort of their exam, and 54 percent found it led to less anxiety.[2]

Pictured: The first-ever remote control for a mammogram puts the woman in control of her mammogram

Design for Comfort

The system features other design enhancements to make the exam more comfortable.

“We know that compression can be painful,” Boudier says. “Senographe Pristina is more comfortable and the design helps improve patient comfort during screening. Because the imaging detector is thinner with rounded corners, patients say that it’s more comfortable because there’s less coming in contact with their bare skin.”

The system’s design also changes the way a patient is positioned. Instead of women projecting their stress on handles by grabbing them too firmly, which tenses pectoral muscles and has an impact on image quality, they can lean comfortably on the armrests, relaxing the muscles to simplify positioning, compression and image acquisition.

When the patient is more relaxed, technologists can focus on precise positioning, potentially making the exam easier and faster. In fact, poor positioning is a leading cause of retakes, and the lack of proper positioning may decrease mammography sensitivity [3].

This reconsidered philosophy of patient positioning is a totally different approach, according to Boudier. These new compression techniques and positioning options are a powerful combination in terms of patient perception and patient comfort.

Indeed, results from patient surveys in Europe prove that the new design is providing a more comfortable exam. Eighty-three percent of patients rated their experience with Senographe Pristina as better than with previous systems and 71 percent rated notably better comfort during their exams versus other systems.[4]

“Finally somebody listened to all the comments that we’ve been hearing and created a machine that is accommodating to our patients and the staff,” says Adela Parro, Lead Mammographer at The Christine E. Lynn Women’s Health & Wellness Institute at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, who started using Senographe Pristina in March 2017, the first U.S. installation of the system.

Pictured: A clinical image of the breast taken with the Senographe Pristina

Feedback throughout the process

With empathy at the center of this product, part of the design process was working closely with patients, technologists and radiologists from Gustave Roussy Cancer Center in Paris, France, one of the largest cancer treatment centers in Europe. These key stakeholders gave GE Healthcare critical input to ensure the system addressed clinicians’ and patients’ concerns.

Senographe Pristina also incorporates calming colors and smooth shapes again to help reduce patient anxiety and make the mammogram a more positive experience.

“It’s not Hello Kitty or Barbie pink,” Boudier says with a laugh. “It’s a soft, metallic pink – a more mature pink, inspired by cosmetics and the automotive industry.”

Boudier says users are optimistic that the system will help inspire women to come back for screening every two years. “We’ve gotten very good feedback,” she says. “Physicians say patients are pleased with the machine.”

More than mammography

Senographe Pristina is part of GE Healthcare’s commitment to the SensorySuite, which simultaneously stimulates at least three of a woman’s senses – scent, sight and sound – and improves the experience globally in an immersive strategy to help reduce the perceived discomfort, pain and anxiety of a mammogram.

Boudier says this “innovative design approach” was a deliberate design choice.

“We really considered not only clinicians, but every user – the technologist and the patient,” she says. “I know that our team did our job if more women are going for their annual mammograms and aren’t scared to walk into the room and do the exam. It’s such an important part of maintaining a healthy life and I want it to be a less painful experience for women around the world.”

Pictured: Senographe Pristina with patient-assisted compression device

[1] http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics
[2] IPSOS Patient Satisfaction Study sponsored by GE Healthcare, conducted with 160 patients who used  patient assisted compression across 2 sites in Europe, February 2017. Data on file.
[3] Taplin SH, Rutter CM, Finder C, et al. Screening Mammography: Clinical Image Quality and the Risk of Interval Breast Cancer. AJR 2002; 178: 79
[4] IPSOS Patient Satisfaction Study sponsored by GE Healthcare, conducted with 315 patients across 2 sites in Europe, February 2017.