Mammography exams could be made less uncomfortable with the application of a pain-relieving gel, according to a study.
For a mammography exam, a radiologic technologist positions the patient's breast on a platform in a mammography unit. The breast is then gradually compressed with a paddle, leading to discomfort.
The clinical trial published in the online edition of Radiology found that fear of the discomfort sometimes associated with the tests may lead women to avoid mammograms altogether.
Trial investigator Colleen Lambertz, a nurse practitioner at St Luke's Mountain States Tumor Institute in the US, said: "We now have something that we know reduces discomfort with screening mammography in women who expect higher discomfort – lidocaine gel.
"With a more positive experience, we hope women will undergo more regular mammography screening."
Most experts agree that the best way to decrease breast cancer mortality is through early detection using mammography and clinical breast exam.
Coauthor Dr James Maxwell said: "Mammography is the only screening tool proven to reduce mortality from breast cancer in women over 40.
"Annual screening is the most important option available to a woman to best ensure early detection and decrease the chance of being diagnosed with an advanced stage breast cancer."