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Less pain, more scientific value: AMC professors improve mammography procedure

When Ard den Heeten, professor of Radiology teamed up with his AMC colleague Kees Grimbergen, professor of Medical Technology, a new approach to mammography was born. It has been developed upon Grimbergen's observation of a serious flaw in the current mammogram procedure: the establishment of a standard force of the so-called "paddle" compressing the breasts.

“Applying the same target force range throughout means that the experience greatly varies among differently proportioned women”, says Grimbergen. “The smaller their breasts, the larger the mean  exerted pressure. Not force,  but pressure should be the relevant parameter here.” Den Heeten explains that the varying pressure among patients also implies that mammograms currently are not obtained under well comparable, standard conditions. “This impedes comparative scientific research and quality control.”

The new Sensitive Sigma Paddle, developed by the two professors and co-workers, changes all that. It features capacitive sensors to measure the breast’s contact surface, so that with women of all sizes a 75 mmHg compression pressure can be maintained. Its "retrofit" design fits in principle  with all major mammography apparatus and to ensure brand independency, and maximum availability AMC spin-off company Sigmascreening was founded. Clinical studies in ten hospitals are now underway, the first apparatus has been sold, and - if all goes well - within a few years the new minimal force mammography will be widely available.