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Latest ‘Threat’ To Mammography Is … A Glove?

November 9, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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Are you ready for the latest breast cancer detection device being touted as a rival to mammography?

Yes, it’s a glove. A plastic glove.

Well, actually more of a mitten. BE gLOVE, a thin, mitten-style polyurethane glove, is being marketed in the United Kingdom as a device for increasing the efficacy of manual breast self-exams. Because the glove greatly reduces friction, according to the product’s Web site, it keeps lumps from being pushed aside by the fingers.

Skeptical? The company selling the device, IPG Pharma Group Ltd., says a clinical study backs up its claims. Believe it or not, that’s true. Sort of.

The study appeared two years ago in the Journal of Plastic Dermatology. The lead author was Stefano Verardi, MD, a professor of plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgery at the University of Rome Tor Vergata. He also apparently is, or was, a celebrity plastic surgeon in Europe.

The study begins by asserting that an annual manual clinical breast examination by a trained health professional together with monthly breast self-examination is “at least as effective” as mammography. The study adds:

Mammography is not a technique for early diagnosis. In fact, a breast cancer has usually been present for about eight years before it can finally be detected.

The authors also claim that mammography carries “a wide range of risks,” including “cancer risks from breast compression.”

The study involved 130 women who had come for a mammogram after detecting or suspecting breast lumps.

After receiving their mammographies, the women were trained in self-examination techniques, half using bare hands and half using something called a Donna Glove, a thin polyurethane “sensor pad” lubricated inside with mineral oil. This is apparently the same as, or at least similar to, the BE gLOVE.

After 18 months of self-examination, the gloved women had detected all of the lumps revealed by their mammograms, while the bare-handed women had detected only 48 percent of the lumps.

So the study, despite its anti-mammography rhetoric, actually assumes that mammography is the gold standard for breast tumor detection. It found that breast self-exams with this glove are as effective in finding tumors as mammograms—if they’re continued for 18 months.

The study, incidentally, says the glove “may increase from 3 to 5 times the fingers sensitivity of the user.” The BE gLOVE Web site claims that the product “magnifies your sense of touch 15 times.” Exactly how encasing your hand in plastic is supposed to magnify your sense of touch isn’t specified. Trade secret, no doubt.

At least the BE gLOVE is cheaper than a mammogram, although not by as much as you’d think. One glove, promoted as lasting up to two years, costs 24.95 pounds, or $31.75. Oh, and the Web site says the BE gLOVE “should not be used to replace your regular mammography check.”

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Related seminar: New Horizons in Breasts Imaging

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