Anaesthetic gel helps mitigate mammography discomfort

July 22nd, 2008 - 2:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 22 (IANS) A pain-relieving gel is likely to reduce the discomfort women experience during mammography, according to results of a clinical trial. “We now have something that we know reduces discomfort with screening mammography in women who expect higher discomfort-lidocaine gel,” said principal investigator Colleen Lambertz, a nurse practitioner at St. Luke’s Mountain State.

Breast cancer accounts for more than 40,000 deaths annually in the US. Most experts agree that the best way to decrease breast cancer mortality is through early detection using mammography and clinical breast exam.

“Mammography is the only screening tool proven to reduce mortality from breast cancer in women over 40,” said study co-author James R. Maxwell, medical director of St. Luke’s Breast Care Services.

For a mammography, a radiologic technologist positions the patient’s breast on a platform in a mammography unit. The breast is then gradually compressed with a paddle.

The patient may feel pressure and occasionally some discomfort or pain. Fear of this discomfort leads many women to avoid mammograms altogether.

Studies have shown that as many as two-thirds of women don’t follow established guidelines for mammography.

Researchers recruited 418 women, aged between 32 and 89 years, who expected significant discomfort with screening mammography.

Fifty-four of the women reported that they had probably or definitely delayed their mammograms due to concern over possible discomfort.

The women were randomised to receive placebos or pre-medication with acetaminophen, ibuprofen and/or a local anaesthetic gel followed by mammography screening.

The gel was applied to the skin of the breasts and chest wall and then removed 30 to 65 minutes before mammography. The gel had no effect on subsequent image quality.

The results showed that oral medication produced no significant differences in breast discomfort, nor did other factors such as breast density.

However, women who received a topical application of four percent lidocaine gel reported significantly less breast discomfort during mammography.

Lidocaine gel is a readily available, over-the-counter anaesthetic that is easy to apply and remove.

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