Mammograms: Digitally Yours
October 10, 2011
All mammograms start the same way—with an x-ray of the breast. But a newer type, called a digital mammogram, processes images differently. It records and stores images on a computer instead of on x-ray film.
Digital mammograms still require compressing the breasts to get good images. But according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), they have some advantages over film.
Viewing and sharing. After you have a mammogram, the images are analyzed by a specialist called a radiologist.
“With digital mammograms, the radiologist can adjust the images on the computer screen to get a better look,” said Kay Burnside, Medical Center of McKinney Women’s Imaging Manager. “He or she can change the size, brightness or contrast to see certain areas more clearly.” Some studies show that this reduces the number of women who need to return for extra tests.
Both film and digital mammograms work well at finding breast cancer. However, several studies show that digital images may be more accurate in women younger than 50 and in women with dense breast tissue, reports the ACS.
Safe and effective. While all x-rays use radiation, the dose from both film and digital mammograms is very small. In fact, one mammogram delivers about the same amount of radiation as you get in three months from natural sources.
About half the mammograms done today are digital. But if you only have access to film mammograms, don't worry. Both types are very good at detecting breast changes early, when treatment works best.
According to the ACS, women should begin having yearly mammograms at age 40. If you're at high risk of breast cancer due to a family history of the disease or other factors, your doctor may recommend that you be tested more often and at an earlier age.
Medical Center of McKinney’s Women’s Imaging Center has moved to the Medical Arts Imaging Center, 4201 Medical Center Drive, Suite 100. To schedule your mammogram at our newly remodeled imaging center, please call 972-540-4380.