Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women in the U.S., second only to skin cancer. Many experts believe the decline in deaths from breast cancer over the past 20 years, in part, is a result of improved screening and treatment techniques. Mammograms are the preferred diagnostic test to find breast cancer in its early stages.
For many years, the only option was mammograms that record images of the breast on film. Now, digital mammograms are available.
All mammograms work by sending X-rays through the breast tissue to obtain images. These pictures are then analyzed for abnormalities and assessed for changes from previous tests. Whether your doctor recommends a film or digital mammogram, the experience will be the same.
Digital mammography is alternative to conventional mammography, where x-ray film is used. Being digital in nature, computers and digital receptors are used to help examine breast tissue for breast cancer. Scans are read on computer screens by a radiologist, allowing manipulation of images that yield more clear results.
To get the best images possible in either a film or digital mammogram, the technologist needs to flatten and compress the breasts before taking images. Breasts will be flattened between two special plates before X-rays are used to take the image. For both types of mammograms, the entire test lasts about 20 minutes.
It cannot be told from the study whether the increased use of digital mammography over film mammography would result in fewer deaths. However, the researchers did note that the types of cancer caught by digital mammograms after being missed on film are the forms of the disease that can be fatal.