Digital mammography is an advanced and specialized type of mammography conducted to examine breast tissues in women in order to detect breast cancer. Using digital receptors and computers, this method differs from traditional mammography screenings; here, instead of x-ray films the records are stored in a digital format.
Mammography and breast cancer
Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women in the U.S. And mammography is the term indicating screening of breasts to check for cancer. Thus, screening and testing for the disease is a required precautionary measure against the disease.
How digital mammography differs from traditional screening
The traditional screening method involved an x-ray mammography whereby the breasts were scanned via radiation by a machine. X-ray report images were examined by doctors to check for irregularities, and these x-ray images of mammography were stored on film for years. With advanced technology, the drawbacks of traditional screening were taken care of by digital mammograms.
How digital mammography works
The method for obtaining film screens as well as digital mammograms is the same. The breasts are placed between two plates by a technician and subsequently flattened and compressed, and then images of breasts are taken from top to bottom and from one side to another. This process could be painful for some; however, the whole process lasts only 20 minutes at the most. The end result or the images are stored as electric signals in the computer, unlike traditional screening where the reports were stored as physical hard copies only.
Benefits of digital mammography
When a study was conducted to compare reports of healthy women who had undergone film screening as well as digital mammography, it was found that digital mammograms were helpful while making a diagnosis of patients who were under 50 years of age, those who had dense breasts, and those who had not gone through menopause yet or had been in menopause for less than a year.
5 Prominent benefits of digital mammograms
- Greater analysis – digital mammograms can be studied repeatedly and in greater detail by radiologists along with clinicians as the images are stored electronically on the computer. Thus, images can be studied or referred to easily at a later time too.
- Clearer images – digital images can be electronically manipulated to provide greater visibility and clarity, which is not possible to achieve with film mammograms.
- Ease of second opinion – digital images can be easily mailed for further analysis and a second opinion.
- Easy-to-keep record – because digital mammograms are saved on a computer and there is no physical copy, it is easier to store even multiple records, compared to bulky film mammograms.
- Lower radiation – breasts are exposed to about 25% less radiation comparatively. Interestingly, digital mammograms use less radiation but take more images of each breast. Each view has images of smaller areas of the breast, therefore using a lower average dose of radiation.
The accuracy of film mammograms and digital mammograms is the same. However, digital mammograms provide opportunities for manipulation to view greater details and have a number of other advantages too. Thus, they are a better option over traditional mammography screening images.