Because you keep putting off that mammogram: For those of us who find mammograms awkward, uncomfortable, even painful, the news this week buzzed with possibly-helpful ideas:

A little lidocaine might help. A study out of Idaho suggested that a normal anesthetic gel helps some women endure the procedure with significantly less discomfort.

“Mammography saves lives, and we would like women to know that if
they’re delaying or avoiding mammograms because they expect higher
discomfort, they should try this product and see if it can become a
better experience. It makes mammograms much more tolerable,” said study
author Colleen Lambertz, a nurse practitioner in the radiation oncology
department at St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute in Boise,
Idaho.

Results of the study were in the July 22 online issue of  Radiology, and were expected to be published in the journal’s September print edition.

Despite its lifesaving potential, as many as one-half to
two-thirds of women don’t follow screening guidelines, according to the
study. A big factor, said Lambertz, may be the pain and discomfort
associated with the test.

Women who used the lidocaine preparation reported significantly less breast discomfort, according to the study.

Leave it to the New York doctor called about the idea to point out that less pain does not equal easy:

However,
Dr. Julia Smith, director of the Breast Cancer Screening and Prevention
Program at the New York University Lynne Cohen Breast Cancer Preventive
Care Program, pointed out that the lidocaine didn’t make a dramatic
difference. She said that although women reported less discomfort with
the lidocaine gel, they didn’t report significantly higher satisfaction.

“What
this study does highlight is that women shouldn’t have to undergo this
kind of pain. We should have an improvement in technology. Mammograms
are unpleasant, and it’s going to take more than giving people Tylenol;
we need better technology,” Smith said.

Maybe a “breast EKG” instead? In Georgia, a new diagnostic tool for breast cancer is all the buzz:

Whether a painless, portable device that uses electrical
current rather than X-ray to look for breast cancer could be an
alternative to traditional mammograms is under study at the Medical
College of Georgia
. MCG is one of 20 centers internationally and the only place in
Georgia studying new technology developed by Z-Tech Inc., to compare
traditional mammograms with impedence scanning, a technique based on
evidence that electrical current passes through cancerous tissue
differently than through normal tissue.

This phase of the study will focus on women age 40-50. Older women
have less dense breast tissue so cancer is easier to find, says Dr.
James Craft, MCG radiologist and principal investigator on the study.
Mammograms, also performed in the study, are more accurate in this
population, so this phase will be a tougher test of the new technology,
he says. The first phase of the study, which began in 2005, was open to
women of all ages.

The Z-Tech scan works by placing a flower-shaped grouping of
electrodes over each breast and sending a small, painless amount of
electricity through them. Unlike traditional mammography, the scan does
not involve breast compression or radiation.

“It’s like doing an EKG of the breast,” Dr. Craft says. A computer immediately calculates and presents a report based on the
electrical signature of the breast tissue. Rather than waiting on
breast image from a traditional mammogram, the computer immediately
notes whether the scan is positive or negative for cancer.

Because you’re as smart as you look: Older women are especially skeptical about that magic new skin cream or rejuvenating pills they see in advertising, according to a new survey out of Canada.

Depressing though it may be, there is no fountain of youth – and we know it.

“In general, participants’ expectations of the products were quite
low,” says the Strategic Counsel’s report, released in March. “For
older women in particular, their expectations were lower, and in their
minds more realistic than the expectations set by the product’s claims
or advertisements.”

Not that we don’t wish that a jar of cream could make us look 10
years younger. “There is a latent desire or hope that the product will
work as desired,” says the report. But pessimism abounds. The researchers based their findings on the attitudes expressed
during eight focus groups organized last November in Toronto, Halifax,
Montreal and Vancouver. Half of the groups were made up of women
between the ages of 16 and 24. The other half consisted of women over
30.

Health Canada, which commissioned the study, is responsible for ensuring the safety of cosmetics used in Canada.

Women who have not yet had to deal with sagging jaw lines or
permanent bags below their eyes are more willing to be convinced that
the goop they apply to their faces will protect them against what many
older women accept as inevitable.

“Younger participants generally held out higher expectations of
their products and expressed higher optimism/hope that their products
would work as advertised,” the report says.

But over all there was a feeling of incredulity expressed about the claims of the skin-care merchants.

By Chris Lombardi

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