Digital mammography diagnosed 28% more cancers in women under 50 with dense breasts.
Digital (computerized) mammography is similar to standard mammography in that X-rays are used to produce detailed images of the breast. Digital mammography uses essentially the same mammography system as conventional mammography, but the system is equipped with a digital receptor and a computer instead of a film cassette.
From the patient’s perspective, a digital mammogram is the same as a standard film-based mammogram in that breast compression and radiation are necessary to create clear images of the breast. The time needed to position the patient is the same for each method. However, conventional film mammography requires several minutes to develop the film while digital mammography provides the image on the computer monitor in less than a minute after the exposure/data acquisition. Thus, digital mammography provides a shorter exam for the woman and may allow mammography facilities to conduct more mammograms in a day.
Digital mammography can also be manipulated to correct for under- or over-exposure after the exam is completed to help the radiologist more clearly see certain areas of the breast. The technologist can review the image just seconds after the exposure, thus decreasing procedure time.
Computer-Aided Detection (CAD)
Computer-aided detection (CAD) systems use a digitized mammographic image that can be obtained from either a conventional film mammogram or a digital mammogram. The computer software then searches for abnormal areas of density, mass or calcification that may indicate the presence of cancer. The CAD system highlights these areas on the images, alerting the radiologist to the need for further analysis.
MRI of the Breast
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive, usually painless test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. MRI uses a magnetic field and a computer to produce detailed pictures of organs, soft tissues, bone and other internal body structures.
MRI of the breast offers valuable information about many breast conditions that cannot be obtained by mammography or ultrasound.
MRI of the breast does not replace mammography or ultrasound imaging. It is a supplemental tool for detecting and staging breast cancer and other breast abnormalities.
Ultrasound of the Breast
Ultrasound is used to investigate an abnormality detected by mammography or during a physician-performed breast exam. It can quickly determine whether a lump is a cyst (sac containing fluid) or a dense mass. Ultrasound scans are pictures created from sound waves and require no radiation. High-frequency transducers are used to examine breast tissue.