Benefits of Digital Mammography Systems Shown Yet Again by Study

2009-10-30
 

Patient consulted about digital mammography resultsAnother study confirming the benefits of digital mammography was published in the August issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology. Researchers from the San Luis Diagnostic Center in California found that digital mammography systems can significantly increase breast cancer detection rates.

The study shows:

  • Breast cancer detection rates increased from 4.1 cancers per 1,000 women with film screenings to 7.9 cancers per 1,000 women imaged using a digital mammography system.
  • Digital mammography alone is responsible for the increased number of cancers detected in patients with dense breasts that were not previously found using film screening.

Even with encouraging results like these, 60% to 70% of screening facilities in the U.S. still use film-screen mammography. That’s according to Dr. Fred Vernacchia, one of the study’s authors and founder and medical director of the San Luis Diagnostic Center.

“This is a disadvantage because digital mammography offers considerable advantages over film-screenmammography,” Dr. Vernacchia said in a statement. “I would certainly encourage patients who are being screened to look for facilities that have digital technology because it is faster and has a higher cancer detection rate.”

Measurable and Non-measurable Benefits of Digital Mammography
Slowly, more and more studies are illustrating the ability of digital mammography systems to increase cancer detection rates and decrease recall rates. For instance, a separate study in the August issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology found that the use of digital breast tomosynthesis and digital mammography combined is associated with a 30% reduction in the recall rate.

These types of measurable results, however, are only half the story. Other benefits of digital mammography are more difficult to measure but equally as valuable:

  • Digital mammography exams typically take less time than traditional film-based exams.
  • Physicians can zoom in and out of the breast images, and contrast can be lightened and darkened. Through an inverting feature, physicians can reverse from black to white, and vice versa, to help detect microcalcifications.
  • Digital images give better visibility of the breast, particularly near the skin line, chest wall and in women with dense breast tissue.
  • Physicians can electronically send digital images anywhere to be viewed on a workstation by another physician.
  • Integrating a digital mammography system into an existing Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) improves workflow by streamlining integration between the workstation, PACS, Radiology Information System (RIS) and digital acquisition unit.

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