For most women having a mammogram, it can be difficult to determine whether the procedure is being conducted via traditional film mammogram or digital mammography. The procedure and appearance of the machine are the same; even the image output is similar.
If you’ve ever worked with celluloid film, you know that there are limitations to what you can actually see based on the quality of the negative. Many variables impact the image. The same is true with medical imaging. Film output vs. digital output has its limitations.
Rather than relying on low energy X-rays, digital mammography examines breast tissue using digital receptors and computers. This allows the radiologist to adjust for brightness and magnify image sections – contrasting images of dense tissue – and more easily distinguishing between healthy and malignant cells.
Benefits of Digital Mammography vs. Conventional Film
One of the clarion calls for improving patient safety was reducing over exposure to harmful x-rays. The immediacy of digital mammography helps achieve this patient safety goal by reducing a woman’s potential exposure to radiation. And because there’s no waiting time for the image to be developed, another image can be taken quickly if the initial quality is poor – while still not significantly increasing radiation exposure.
The patient can also confer with the radiologist almost immediately regarding the results of the image, greatly contributing to that one all important aspect of patient care – peace of mind. In addition to the patient spending less time in the exam room, imagine the relief when she doesn’t have to return for repeat images, and further expose herself to radiation and X-rays.
What has been your hospital or healthcare organization’s experience with digital mammography? I’m also curious to know if you’ve made the next leap to 3D mammography. I encourage you to share your thoughts and insights via a comment below.