Curved mammogram paddles? Yes, plus other new state-of-the-art breast cancer screening tools

mammography patient universal

Curved mammogram paddles. A faster and less expensive breast MRI. Artificial intelligence (AI)-aided tumor detection. At-home tests to determine your personal risk for breast cancer.

These are some of the newest technologies on the horizon or already in use at the University of Chicago Medicine. The academic health system recently expanded its breast imaging services, adding state-of-the-art tools to improve accuracy, comfort and convenience.

UChicago Medicine partnered with Solis Mammography to bring the latest technology to the Chicago market. The hospital, already known nationwide for its breast cancer expertise, is also progressing with its industry-leading clinical trials for new breast cancer screening tools.

The American Cancer Society expects an estimated 279,100 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 42,000 will die from the disease — making early detection critically important.

Breast-Shaped Mammogram Paddles

Yearly mammograms are recommended for women starting at age 40. But many women avoid them because the procedure is painful — each breast is tightly pressed between two flat panels to scan for potential tumors.

To make the test more comfortable, UChicago Medicine uses SmartCurve, developed by Hologic, in partnership with Solis Mammography. This unique technology offers curved compression paddles, shaped like a woman’s breast, and a SmartCurve Breast Stabilization System with 3D imaging. It can be used by the vast majority of women, except those with very small or large breasts, or with certain types of implants.

SmartCurve breast-shaped mammogram paddle
SmartCurve breast-shaped paddles make mammograms more comfortable.

“Women who have tried it told me it was revolutionary,” said Alex Sardina, MD, Solis Mammography’s chief medical officer.

UChicago Medicine upgraded all of its mammogram machines to high-tech 3D models in August 2019, and added SmartCurve paddles to most of them. They're now offered at:

More Comfortable Testing Rooms

UChicago Medicine and Solis Mammography are also transforming two mammography suites, specifically at Orland Park and River East locations, to feel less clinical, so patients can be tested in a more comfortable and calm environment. Several anxiety-reducing features have been added, such as earthy paint colors, soft lighting, comfortable home-like seating and spacious dressing rooms.

During hour-long breast ultrasounds, patients can connect their phones to the treatment room’s Bluetooth speaker and listen to their choice of music or podcast.

Upright AFFIRM Biopsy System

A faster, less-intimidating breast biopsy is now offered at UChicago Medicine in Hyde Park and at UChicago Medicine Ingalls in Tinley Park and Harvey. Hologic’s new AFFIRM biopsy system allows patients to sit upright in a chair as a high-tech machine is centered over the breast, calculating the precise spot where the needle needs to be inserted. AFFIRM cuts the test time in half, to about 15 to 30 minutes. Plus, doctors say it makes the whole procedure easier and more comfortable for the patient.


This new technology — a wireless device roughly the size of a grain of rice — is inserted into the breast to help surgeons accurately locate masses and tumors. It saves time and allows tumors to be removed with smaller incisions. SAVI SCOUT also reduces the amount of healthy breast tissue that's being removed, while increasing the probability of complete tumor removal. It's now being used at UChicago Medicine Ingalls in Harvey and Tinley Park.


QuantX is a novel breast imaging analysis technology based on two decades of research by UChicago Medicine’s Maryellen Giger, PhD, a world-renowned pioneer in computer-aided diagnosis (CAD). It helps analyze breast MRIs using artificial intelligence (AI) and a large reference database to help radiologists interpret results and identify cancerous and non-cancerous breast lesions.

The FDA recently cleared the new technology for use after a clinical study showed Quantx improved the discovery of breast cancer tumors by 39% and increased overall diagnostic improvement by 20%.

“It’s not going to replace the decisions that doctors make,” explained cancer radiologist Deepa Sheth, MD. “It’s going to help us make better decisions.”

The imaging team at UChicago Medicine is evaluating QuantX for future patient use.

Ultrafast Abbreviated MRI

Ultrafast Abbreviated MRI is a revolutionary technology developed by Sheth, Hiroyuki Abe, MD, PhD, and scientist Gregory Karczmar, PhD. It scans the breast every three seconds for about 10 minutes, completing the MRI in a fraction of the time it normally takes. The results are just as accurate, if not more so, due to the high-tech nature of the scans. And the cost of the procedure is significantly less.

The data acquired from Ultrafast Abbreviated MRI’s government-funded clinical trials at UChicago Medicine soon will be incorporated in large national trials. It is proving to be a reliable screening tool for high-risk women, including women with dense breasts.


UChicago Medicine joined with University of California medical researchers for WISDOM, a national study designed to determine if breast cancer screening can be made better by personalizing each woman's mammogram schedule.

Women enrolled in the study's personalized screening schedule submit family/medical history and saliva samples for genetic testing of nine genes associated with increased breast cancer risk. Risk results will help determine whether a woman needs a mammogram every other year, or if she should get more frequent mammograms supplemented with MRIs.

"No patient is the same and neither is their cancer,” said Sheth, one of the doctors leading the trial. “If you know your risk, you are better able to take control of your care. It’s all about finding the right test for the right patient. It’s all about personalized care. WISDOM will empower women to take the first steps towards that reality."

Learn more and sign up:


A routine breast MRI involves the injection of a contrast agent (dye). While the contrast improves the image quality, there’s been growing concern about its safety. At UChicago Medicine, Sheth and her team are helping to develop a Low Dose Imaging Technique (LITE) MRI, where less than one-fifth of the contrast is used to obtain the same quality images.

Olufunmilayo Olopade, MD, and Tara Gehring, RN

Breast Cancer Care

Our team represents expertise across the spectrum of breast cancer care: breast imaging, breast surgery, medical and radiation oncology, plastic and reconstructive surgery, lymphedema treatment, clinical genetics, pathology and nursing. Patients receive a comprehensive treatment plan that optimizes chances of their survival and quality of life.

Learn more about UChicago Medicine breast cancer care.

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