Janet Mayer has always been diligent about getting her annual mammogram. When the 51-year-old Nisswa woman was asked if she’d like to try the newest technology for her most recent mammogram, she agreed.

“My experience with it is it was more comfortable than the original,” Mayer said of the new SmartCurve paddle offered at Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby. “I definitely felt the difference because I didn’t feel as much pressure with this new paddle. I didn’t feel like I was being poked in the armpit.”

Melinda Jackson, breast imaging manager at CRMC, described the Hologic SmartCurve breast stabilization system paddle as a specially curved paddle for the shape of a woman's breast.

Noting that the chest wall edge is curved instead of straight, Jackson said: “The paddle itself is curved, which provides more uniform compression for the breast tissue - it spreads it out.”

Ideally, this technology provides a more comfortable experience for the patient undergoing the mammogram.

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“Women have found it doesn’t pinch as much at the chest wall. It’s curved. Nice and easy, it comes down and catches the breast tissue instead of pulling and pinching,” Jackson said, noting the paddle on top is curved so it fits around the breast shape for more even compression and, thus, less discomfort.

“Discomfort is the main reason many women don’t come in for annual mammograms,” she said.

Jackson said the SmartCurve paddle spreads out the breast tissue to a more uniform thickness. Pulling that breast tissue away from the chest wall allows technologists to see more of the breast tissue with more even compression.

“It’s not for everyone, but I would say we use it for 80% of our patients,” she said, noting the SmartCurve paddle is most beneficial for women with more curves.

Women are all different shapes and sizes, and as they get older their breast tissue changes. For some women, the SmartCurve paddle might be used for one view, and the more common technology for a side view.

The SmartCurve paddle can be used with both 2D and 3D mammograms. Jackson said the 3D mammogram is highly recommended because it’s much more thorough, detecting 1 millimeter images through the breast tissue. However, not all health insurance plans cover it.

She used a book as an example, saying the 2D is like seeing the ends of the book, while the 3D is like scrolling through all the pages inside.

Some women may be skipping their annual mammograms this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Jackson advises against this.

“We want patients to come in,” she said. “Especially now after COVID, people talk and say, ‘Should I come in?’ But it is important to come in for your mammograms. We don’t want to delay finding breast cancer.”

It is important to have a mammogram every year, Jackson reiterated.

“We can’t prevent the breast cancer from happening, but we can find it earlier,” she said, noting just a couple of years can make a big difference in breast cancers.

Jackson also advised people to be familiar with what is normal so they can detect any changes in their breasts.

“Be familiar with breast tissue and know what’s normal and what's not,” she said.

Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.