Courtesy of GE Healthcare Canada
The newly launched Senographe Pristina aims to improve the mammogram experience for women so they'll want to return for prescribed breast cancer screening.
When a patient is calm and comfortable, the quality of medical scans improves and the patient is more likely to return for subsequent screening. Seems like a no-brainer, right? That's what GE Healthcare thinks. With the launch of their new Senographe Pristina mammography system, they hope to maximize early diagnosis of breast cancer with a test that is actually pleasant for women.
How can a mammogram be pleasant?
In Ontario, mammograms are recommended every two years for women over 50 (though this age changes with high risk or dense breasts). That's a lot of scans. But, until now, mammography equipment hasn't taken women's experience into account. "We worked with over 1,200 women when we developed this product," says Heather Chalmers, general manager of GE Healthcare Canada. "We used the feedback that we received to create the design."
What's so special about the Pristina?
The Pristina uses manual compression—a remote control called the Dueta—to allow the patient to increase or decrease pressure with the touch of a button. "When women have a sense of control, they actually compress as much as a technologist would, or more," says Chalmers, which means more of the breast tissue can be clearly scanned. But if a patient is hesitant to increase compression and the technologist worries about getting a quality image, he or she will step in to assist.
Sandra McFarlane, Technical Coordinator of Mammography at St. Joseph's Health Care London—the first location in North America to install a Pristina in July 2017—also notes that the machine is "more pleasing to the eye with its shape, colour and design." It has soft lighting, rounded edges that won't dig into the patient's flesh and an armrest. Plus, any area of the unit that touches the breast is warmed so there's no initial shock.
"The unit also has a sensory suite," says McFarlane. "It's a large wall-mounted monitor that scrolls through beautiful scenes with nature audio playing in the background. We've had a very positive response from the patients."
Why is it necessary?
In Canada, as many as 26,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017 and 5,000 of them will die. But early detection can decrease morbidity by 25 to 30 percent. Unfortunately, most women feel discomfort and some pain during traditional mammograms and "anywhere from 25 to 46 percent of women don't come for follow-up mammograms after their first experience," says Chalmers. A machine that takes comfort into consideration should improve those numbers.
But, does image quality suffer with a more enjoyable scan?
Nope! Radiologist Dr. Anat Kornecki of St. Joseph's Health Care London has been using the Pristina for over two months and has noticed that imaging has actually improved. "We have prior scans from the same patients for comparison and we can see more fine details with the Pristina," she says. "The images are very pleasing to the eye. We can also compare the amount of compression that was achieved in prior studies and we definitely see improvement."
Where do you find it?
Here's the catch: Since the technology is so new, it's currently only available in Canada in a handful of locations in Ontario and Quebec. If the idea of increased comfort and improved imaging interests you, it's time to let your physician know you want access to better screening options. "We're hoping that as mammography equipment gets replaced, or new equipment goes in, healthcare providers will choose the Pristina," says Chalmers.