When a Breast Skin Tear Becomes More Important than Diagnosis


A while back Beekley Medical published the article "Skin Tears in Mammography Happen…But Do They Have To?" Soon after, we began receiving communications from patients who wanted to feel heard after experiencing a skin tear that their breast center “shrugged off” as a normal occurrence. One patient actually submitted her story to Beek•Speak to share her experience with others.

Another woman emailed me after she experienced a skin tear, googled the topic, and read the skin tear blog, to ask if we could get Bella Blankets protective coverlets for mammography into her breast imaging center. She gave us permission to share her name and request with the breast center and they soon ordered a box to keep on hand for those patients that may easily tear. Bravo to that breast center for listening and attending to their patient’s needs!

An experience so bad, she doesn't want to go back for another mammogram ever

Most concerning, however, was when I received a call from a patient who indicated that it was highly unlikely she would return for a mammogram because her skin tear caused her physical and emotional pain. She gave me permission to share her experience if I kept her anonymous.

Here is her story:

"Because they had an opening before my (appointment) time they took me in right away. Neither of them (the mammography technologists) introduced themselves.

"I never saw either of them wash their hands or clean the equipment. The younger of the two did all of the manipulations and set up. She was very aggressive in doing this, making many adjustments.

"With the left breast under compression the tech continued to pull and tug on my breast. I told her she was hurting me and she replied 'Oh everyone says that, just stay still, we are almost done.'

A cut under my breast 6 inches long

"I again stated that this was not normal pain for the compression that it felt like my skin was ripping. She again said this is normal. When the exam was through, I examined the breast and saw a cut about 6 inches long.

"When I showed the tech the injury, the older one said, 'Oh this happens all the time.' I replied, 'Not to me, this has never happened to me before or anyone that I know.'

"I asked for an incident form and the older one said, 'Oh I guess we will need to file an incident report. I don’t know where they are.'  I was upset that they did not know the procedure to file a report and had her call her supervisor.

"When I spoke to the supervisor and explained what happened, she asked if I could send her the photo I took. I did and asked her to send me the completed incident report. She gave me her email and said she would send me the report.

"At some point, a med tech came in with some sterile dressings that would have stuck to the wound, I asked her if she had the non-stick dressings and she returned with two. She did ask if I wanted some bacitracin, but I told her no, as I have an allergic reaction to that. I said I had silvadine cream at home and I would use that. The older tech then did my bone density scan as planned."

The patient did get an apology letter from the Patient Experience Officer, here is a segment of that letter:

"During our investigation of your complaint a thorough review of your medical record was completed. We are very sorry for the discomfort you have experienced from the tear in your skin. The Radiologist explained that unfortunately this is a known possible complication of having a mammogram. It was explained that skin tears can happen for many reasons; skin moistness, dry and fragile skin, skin abrasions or inflammation caused by rubbing of the skin. Sometimes in the skin folds there is moisture and with that bacteria, fungus or an infection can develop which can be the cause of tearing the skin."

Skin Tears hurt both patient and facility

Despite the apology and explanation, this patient is still questioning whether to continue getting annual mammograms. I stressed to her the importance of getting screening mammograms regularly. I hope she will decide to return.

As the Product Manager of Bella Blankets protective coverlets for mammography, I have accompanied my colleagues to site visits to demonstrate how they help the technologist with positioning and add comfort for the patient. However, hearing from patients directly makes me even more passionate about their role in helping women who may have thin skin and are prone to tearing.

No patient should feel tempted to gamble with their life by not returning for a mammogram because of a bad experience with skin tears.

If you would like to reduce the likelihood of skin tears at your breast imaging center, contact your Beekley Medical Account Manager at 1-800-233-5539 or info@beekley.com and ask about a trial evaluation of Bella Blankets to experience the difference for yourself.

Melissa Vibberts

Melissa Vibberts

Director of Brand Management

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