Digital mammography uses the same technique as film screen mammography, except that in the digital method, the image is recorded directly into a computer. The image can then be enlarged, highlighted, or otherwise manipulated for improved imaging, without requiring the taking of another mammogram. If there is a suspicious area, your doctors can use the computer to take a closer look.
Often radiologists read a patient’s digital mammogram with the help of computer-aided detection ("CAD") programs. Because the images are electronic, they can be sent directly to a patient's doctor for review — a wonderful convenience.
Other advantages of digital mammograms are that they:
• Can reduce exposure to radiation, due to reduction of the need for repeat mammograms for better imaging
• Take pictures of the entire breast, even if the denseness of the breast tissue varies
• Are more sensitive, compared to film mammography, for detection of abnormalities in women with dense breasts, pre-menopausal women, perimenopausal women, and women <50 years of age[1, 2]
However, digital mammograms are more expensive and not as widely available. On the other hand, as the newer technology of digital mammography becomes more affordable, the availability of digital mammography should become more common.
1. National Cancer Institute. Digital mammography trial results announced: women with dense breasts, women younger than 50, and those who are perimenopausal may benefit from digital mammograms. Accessed at www.cancer.gov/newscenter/pressreleases/DMISTrelease.
2. E. D. Pisano, C. Gatsonis, E. Hendrick, M. Yaffe, et al. Diagnostic performance of digital versus film mammography for breast cancer screening. New England Journal of Medicine. 2005; 353(37):1773-1783.