Q. What is the difference between Digital Mammography and Traditional Film Screen Mammography?

Written by Dave Harrison, RT(R)(N), MBA, Manager of Imaging Services

A. The goal of any Mammography Program is to provide accurate diagnosis, and if possible provide early detection of a suspected breast cancer. This results in earlier treatment, and possible improved patient outcomes.

The US based Digital Mammography Screening Trial released in 2005 has shown that digital mammography may be more accurate at detecting breast cancer in some women over Traditional Film Screen Mammography. According to the study results, digital and standard film mammography had similar accuracy rates for many women. However, digital mammography was significantly better at screening women in any of the following categories:

• under age 50, regardless of breast tissue density
• of any age with very dense or extremely dense breasts
• pre- or perimenopausal women of any age

The Digital Mammogram takes an image much like a digital camera. To the Radiologist, the electronic digital image is much easier to manipulate and visually examine the various tissue densities in the breast. With digital mammography, the magnification, orientation, brightness, and contrast of the image may be altered after the exam is completed to help the radiologist more clearly see certain areas without having to repeat the mammogram. However the greatest difference is a higher sensitivity to abnormalities within the breast. Although both digital and traditional film screen mammography utilize radiation small studies have shown less radiation exposure is used in Digital.

MammoPad, a soft foam cushion, can help with the discomfort many women feel during mammography. The cushion is placed on the surface of the image detector, providing women with a softer, more comfortable mammogram. Clinical studies show three out of four women experience an average 50% decrease in discomfort with MammoPad and the radiolucent cushion does not interfere with image quality.

For more information on Digital Mammograms, please contact the Imaging Department at Wooster Community Hospital at 330-263-8660.

Imaging Services Manager