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Volume 6 Supplement 1

Symposium Mammographicum 2004

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Breast compression revisited


Breast compression is essential in mammography to reduce breast thickness. Breast thickness reduction reduces the radiation dose and increases the image quality. Breast compression also unfortunately causes discomfort to many women and may deter them from attending for breast screening by mammography. It is essential, therefore, that an optimum amount of compression is applied to minimise breast thickness. Current protocols suggest that breast compression should be applied until physical changes to the breast are observed. Two studies were conducted to investigate the relationship between applied compression force and breast thickness reduction.


Study 1 investigated changes in breast thickness when applied breast compression was reduced, while study 2 compared the compression force and resultant breast thickness recorded clinically with that recorded under experimental conditions.


The results suggest that applying compression does not ensure breast thickness reduction and observing physical changes does not guarantee that breast thickness has been minimised.


The protocols for the applying compression must be changed to emphasise the need for minimising breast thickness. Mammography machine digital displays should be revised.


The goal of mammographic practice must be to minimise breast thickness while acknowledging the potential for discomfort to be experienced.

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Poulos, A., McLean, D., Rickard, M. et al. Breast compression revisited. Breast Cancer Res 6 (Suppl 1), P43 (2004).

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