Soft mammograms

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. The chance of getting breast cancer goes up as a woman gets older.

As a former patient who had benign breast tumors and a lumpectomy, I have to get a mammogram every year. Now, there's new technology that could take the cold and the awkward experience and make it pleasurable.

All women over 40 and nearly half of women in their 30s must get a mammogram once a year.

For women over 50, like Jean Marangio, the test is essential. "One in three women are being diagnosed with breast cancer nowadays. Out of the group of three women, I am the one."

Jean's surgeon recommended not only treatment, but he enrolled her in a clinical trial, an unusual screening called a softscan.

"It's very new, and its part of a study, and we're not gonna find out the results right now, but it is very important for the study of future problems," says Cristina Cullinane, softscan technician.

Martin Memorial Health Systems in Stuart is one of four hospitals in the nation selected for the trial.

Lasers can detect not only abnormalities in dense breast tissue, but also whether those tumors are benign or malignant.

Dr. James Vopal is heading up the project. He says better laser pictures are the key to better diagnosis and treatment. "This is just another technological advance they have come up with that may be better than mammography. We don't know. That is why we are doing the clinical trials."

A softscan feels nothing like a mammogram. "It was almost like going to a spa for 30 minutes," says Jean.

A technician shows me how it works. And there was no compression nor discomfort.

Jean's daughter, Kimberly, needed to get checked after her mother's diagnosis.

She enrolled in the clinical trial, as well. "It is very relaxing. You are just laying there."

Comfort is a bonus, fewer biopsies that are better and earlier detection is the goal.

Oncologists hope it will one day make biopsies unnecessary. Doctors have to refer patients to be in the trial.

For more information on Softscan or to sign up for the trial log onto;jsessionid=5EA68C00626C99DC3006A1D82D0E287C?order=29