The study's lead author says in a news release that the numbing gel may act
as a simple secret weapon: "We now have something that we know reduces
discomfort with screening mammography in women who expect higher discomfort --
Nurse practitioner Colleen Lambertz, with St. Luke's Mountain States Tumor
Institute, says in a statement that reducing pain may mean more mammograms.
"With a more positive experience, we hope women will undergo more regular
Researchers gathered 418 women aged 32 to 89 years old.
All the participants had expected to have discomfort during a mammogram. In
fact, 54 of the participants said they had "probably or definitely"
delayed getting a mammogram because of the perceived discomfort associated with
The women were surveyed before the screening and after.
They were divided into three groups and given acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and/or the lidocaine gel before the
mammogram. All of the medications were chosen because
they are easy to get, over the counter, and have few side effects.
Less Pain After Mammogram Gel
Researchers found that those who received the numbing gel had
"significantly" less breast discomfort.
Those who took the oral medications did not report significant easing of
During a mammogram, the breasts are squeezed and pressed with a paddle so
the X-ray can zone in to the dense tissue.
Women who expected to have a lot of discomfort during the mammogram did, as
did women who had tender breasts.
Eighty-eight percent of the participants said they would
"definitely" go back for a screening in the next year. Ten of the
participants said they "probably" would go for their annual
"Mammography is the only screening tool proven to reduce mortality from
breast cancer in women over 40," according to prepared statements from
study co-author James R. Maxwell, MD, medical director of St. Luke's Breast
"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."
In background information published with the findings, study authors write
that breast cancer accounts for "one-fifth of all deaths in women aged 40
to 50 years old."
The recent decrease in death rates from breast cancer is directly linked to
better and increased screenings through mammograms.
The authors write, "Still, recent reports suggest that approximately
one-half to two-thirds of women do not follow established guidelines for
As for the guidelines, the National Cancer Institute recommends that women
get their first mammogram beginning at age 40 and every one to two years
thereafter. Check with your doctor, as sometimes a screening mammogram is
recommended before age 40 in women at higher than average risk.
The findings appear in the online edition of Radiology.