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Published on January 15, 2018

sensory suite mammography

Calming, Beautiful Atmosphere at Heart of Sensory Suite Mammography

Dar Ridley’s mammography exam experiences were not always enjoyable, and while she knew in her mind that mammography is a life-saving exam, a less-than-pleasant experience made her dread having another one.

“The exam that made me wince was not good. Everything seemed rushed, and I left feeling terrible,” said the 59-year-old Sioux Falls resident. “That exam made me think I would never want to get another one.”

While that experience lingered her husband, Larry, told her about a new mammography experience he’d heard about while seeing his physician at Avera Medical Group Family Health Center.

“My husband’s on the Internet often, and he reviewed it and told me to give it a try,” she said. “I thought about it – and remembered my last exam – and I said heck, let’s go for it.”

What she experienced when she went for her exam was positive, from the moment she arrived until her departure a short time later. Dar experienced the sights, scents and sounds of the Avera SensorySuite mammography exam, a new service that can help patients who avoid mammograms. The GE product is the first technology of this kind in South Dakota.

“You never know how it’ll be until you try it and it was really good,” she said. “I was lost when I got there, and someone walked me to the right place. The woman immediately greeted me and we got things started.”

Dar said the calming conversation with the technologist was as important as the environment. SensorySuite is an all-encompassing, sensory-rich calming experience that she said was relieving and, surprisingly enough considering her perspective on mammograms, almost fun.

“The images and sound – they all were beautiful, and my experience really flew by,” she said. “You never would imagine a mammogram could be like this – but it was really what I needed and it really restored my trust in these exams.”

Jill Schultz, director of breast health with Avera Breast Center, said the goal of all mammography is the same: to detect breast cancer and save lives.

“The SensorySuite gives us another tool to help patients have the best possible experience, and the exam can give some patients apprehensive feelings for a number of reasons,” said Schultz. “This approach can help alleviate the fear or ill-at-ease feelings people may have when they consider a mammogram.”

The SensorySuite offers large video monitors that can depict calm landscapes or tranquil beaches, and speakers bring the images to life in the patient’s mind as the breeze wafts through mountainside trees or birdsongs fill a placid prairie scene. For patients like Dar, engaging those senses helps show her fears to the door.

Since she had such a pleasant experience with this new way of doing mammography, Dar said she’s shared the news.

“Not everyone has a good experience, and I have told my friends about how beautiful this was for me,” Dar said. “And now I won’t put off my next exam, thanks to this experience and this atmosphere.”

Women who wish to schedule screening mammograms can call 605-322-PINK. Those who wish to take the opportunity to try the SensorySuite can seek appointments at Avera Breast Center West, housed in the Avera Medical Group Family Health Center on Marion Road in Sioux Falls.

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