For the first time, the use of colour in technical breast examinations has been used to help relax patients during awkward and sometimes embarrassing procedures. A ‘MoodLight’ has been designed as part of a new innovative digital breast imaging system.
The use of colour has long been associated with stimulating our feelings and emotions. The tones we use to decorate our homes, the shade of car we choose to drive, even the clothes we pick out to wear, all have deeper meanings that lock into our psychology. The new digital mammography system from Siemens Healthcare called ‘Inspiration’ emits colours into the examination environment and can be changed instantly to suit different patients.
One of the first hospitals using the system in the UK is St. John’s Hospital in West Lothian, Scotland. Julie Graham, Lead Mammographer at St. Johns comments, “The system gives us great flexibility in the choice of colours. We’ve used the peach colour tones the most as this is warm and welcoming and as we examine one - two men per week, we would certainly avoid pinks or other typically feminine colours at these times as it would be too intimidating.”
The majority of breast examinations take the form of a Mammogram, a specialist breast X-ray that looks inside the tissue to detect changes in the breast that sometimes can’t be felt but could represent a cancer. All women between the ages of 50 and 70, due to change to 47 and 73 by 2012, are called for breast screening every three years. For many, removing clothing in front of strangers and having their breast compressed during the examination causes anxiety.
“Many people think that colour is just a matter of vision – essentially cosmetic in its effects – but the truth is that colour affects us physiologically as well as emotionally and aesthetically, every waking moment, whether we are conscious of it or not. It is therefore a crucially important element in healthcare,” states Angela Wright, Colour Psychologist. “Breast examination is inevitably an anxiety-provoking experience, from the actual examination process to the fear of what might be found, so almost any warm, soft colour will help to ease negative feelings.”
She continues, “Each colour has very specific properties, so once the clinical staff gauge how a patient is feeling, exactly the right colour can be chosen to actively improve his or her mood. For example, orange is a mixture of physical and emotional stimulus so is very sensual. It can make you feel surrounded by abundance if you are feeling deprived. Mixing hues of orange and pink gives you peach which is also psychologically positive and very flattering to the skin. Green is the most reassuring colour to restore balance and turquoise is the colour of inspiration, which most people find uplifting due to its conscious associations with water and the natural world.”
“In the breast screening programme, mammography is used to identify problems early, often before they can be felt and it is therefore important that ladies over fifty and people with family risks are screened regularly,” said Samantha Smith, Women’s Health Specialist at Siemens Healthcare and previously a mammographer in the NHS. “Over the last 20 years the NHS Breast Screening Programme has done a wonderful job in identifying cancer earlier and improving survival rates. With the age range for screening widening and an increasing ageing population, new digital systems will prove their worth. If integral calming colours can also reduce anxiety during the examinations we can improve the chances of getting a good quality examination first time and the ladies may be more likely to re-attend next time. It’s an added plus in the quest to beat breast cancer.”
The UK’s breast screening programme has undertaken over 18 million mammograms since the service began in 1988 leading to the detection of over 100,000 cancers. The service currently uses analogue mammography systems but will look to upgrade all hospital based and mobile centres to digital by 2012, beginning next year. This will further enhance the standard of care provided to women.
Digital Mammography is the same physical process as the current technology in that women’s breasts are placed on the X-ray system, compressed and then imaged one at a time. The advantages of digital is that the process is more automated so there is more time for the patient, it is quicker, the image quality is more superior to aid earlier diagnosis and there can be less recalls where women are asked to come back in for repeat examinations or further assessment. Digital mammography is of particular use to women with denser breasts such as younger women and women on HRT.
The use of colour and its merits in promoting a feeling of well being in the healthcare environment was cited as important in a 2005 Department of Health paper, ‘The Healing Environment’.
Notes to editors:
Interviews with representatives cited in the release and pictures available upon request.
Angela Wright is a Colour Psychologist and author of ‘The Beginners Guide to Colour Psychology’.
About Siemens Healthcare
The Siemens Healthcare Sector is one of the world’s largest suppliers to the healthcare industry. The company is a renowned medical solutions provider with core competence and innovative strength in diagnostic and therapeutic technologies as well as in knowledge engineering, including information technology and system integration. With its laboratory diagnostics acquisitions, Siemens Healthcare is the first integrated healthcare company, bringing together imaging and lab diagnostics, therapy and healthcare information technology solutions, supplemented by consulting and support services. Siemens Healthcare delivers solutions across the entire continuum of care – from prevention and early detection, to diagnosis, therapy and care. Additionally, Siemens Healthcare is the global market leader in innovative hearing instruments. The company employs more than 49,000 people worldwide and operates in 130 countries. In the fiscal year 2007 (Sept. 30), Siemens Healthcare reported sales of €9.85 billion, orders of €10.27 billion, and group profit of €1.32 billion. Further information can be found by visiting http://www.siemens.co.uk/healthcare.
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