How Fort Hamilton is working to make mammograms more comfortable

Calming scenes and scents are designed to decrease anxiety

Fort Hamilton Hospital recently introduced a new 3D mammography unit with a Sensory Suite that includes a large, flat-panel monitor designed to reduce anxiety and increase comfort. During a mammogram, patients can watch a series of images from nature and listen to relaxing sounds. A scent diffuser also fills the air with a calming fragrance.

“When we were putting this unit in at Fort Hamilton, we wanted to create an overall experience for the patients,” said Sally Grady, director of the Kettering Breast Evaluation Centers.

She continued, “Way too often, women are very worried about coming in for a mammogram. They’ve heard stories from their friends like, ‘It hurts,’ or you see all the jokes out there about compression, such as ‘They are going to flatten my breast like a pancake,’ and all these different fears that women have. So, when we thought about putting a mammography unit at Fort Hamilton, we thought, ‘How do we really change this overall perception and create an experience where, a woman is still probably never going to look forward to a mammogram, but how do we make it the best that it can be?”

The hospital was also able to purchase a Sensory Suite.

“It has a 50-inch flat panel TV that hangs on the wall, so as you are standing there in compression, you are able to look at beautiful images that are set to music. And, the patient can actually choose the images they would like to look at. There’s an iPad, and they can pick from a beach scene, a mountain scene, a waterfall, or garden scene, and the images change, so there are multiple images that the patient will see as they are standing there,” Grady said.

There’s also a very light scent, which creates a whole ambiance in the room, because for some women, the process of having a mammogram can cause a great deal of anxiety. Research has shown that by stimulating two or more senses, simultaneously, patients can be distracted from the perceived discomfort, pain and anxiety of a mammogram.

Along with the Sensory Suite, the hospital has patient-assisted compression. The technologist will position the breast onto the plate, and start the compression, but there’s a remote control that the patient can have in her hand, and she can help finish the compression.

“It really takes the fear of loss of control out of the equation, and it puts the control back into the hands of the women. And, what we’ve seen at Fort Hamilton is women will compress themselves more than they would have allowed the tech to,” said Grady.

Fort Hamilton has implemented these latest technologies within the past six months, and they’ve already had a tremendous response from patients. The testimonials the hospital has received from patients are very positive.

“We’ve heard comments like, ‘Oh, this doesn’t smell like a hospital room,’ or ‘The pictures are beautiful, it really helped to calm me down.’ So, it’s great when you hear those kind of comments, because we know we did the right thing by putting this in with the great technology that we were able to add at Fort Hamilton,” Grady said.

She said Fort Hamilton is able to accommodate patients’ needs very quickly by offering comprehensive services.

“We do the total service, so we do a screening mammogram, we do a diagnostic mammography, we do ultrasound-guided biopsy, and we do stereotactic biopsy at that location, so it’s a very comprehensive site. It really can be a one-stop-shop kind of an experience,” she said.

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