Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women, and the second leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States. In fact, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Breast examinations and screenings are an important way for women to participate in their healthcare for the detection of breast cancer. Forty percent of breast cancer cases are first detected when the woman feels a lump in her breast, according to Johns Hopkins Medical Center. If you feel a lump, it is crucial that you go to the doctor to get a mammogram to get checked out.
For many years, the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommended that women receive mammograms annually starting at age 40. However, in October 2015, they changed their guidelines, and the new recommendations now state that women at average risk of breast cancer start getting annual mammography exams from age 45-54, and continue to undergo mammography every other year after that. The ACS guidelines state that as long as a woman is in good health, regular mammograms should be continued.
Technology is constantly evolving, but mammography is the standard breast cancer screening procedure for accurately detecting if a woman has breast cancer. In simple terms, a mammogram is a form of X-ray image of the breasts, to see the breast tissue. Conventional methods of performing a mammography are done by storing the images of the breast on film. There are now two types available: digital mammography and film mammography.
Digital mammograms are only used in diagnostic imaging centers that are certified by the FDA to perform digital mammography’s. Digital mammogram images are stored on a computer and can be easily shared electronically, allowing multiple providers to share necessary data in order to improve your care. Digital mammography uses less radiation. Digital mammograms also have better picture clarity and the ability to alter the photos afterwards. This can make detecting abnormal changes much more accurate, due to the detail provided. This creates fewer false positive test results because of the nature of the testing itself.
This means that the screening is going to pick up only the important information and differences or abnormalities in the breast tissue, and eliminate what is irrelevant. This is known as specificity. Even though it catches many little things that are not really important, digital mammography also catches small changes that could be early signs of breast cancer. As with any cancer, the earlier it is caught, the better. Saving lives is worth the occasional false positive. Digital mammography’s are quickly proving to be the best option.
Conventional mammography uses X-ray radiation to produce an image of the breast. Conventional mammograms are read and stored on film, which may result in false positives or an inaccurate diagnosis. A mammogram can be used to screen healthy women with no signs of breast cancer. It is also used to help in diagnosis with women who have symptoms. A mammogram can pinpoint very small abnormalities before they can be physically felt.
Both types of mammogram technology use X-ray radiation to produce an image of the breast. The main difference is that older mammography systems rely on film, and today, digital images are viewed and stored on a computer. Digital mammograms are also easier to view and manipulate. The radiologist can access the images on a computer, where they can be enhanced, magnified, or manipulated for further evaluation. They can highlight areas, zoom in and out, and use specific filters to gain a more accurate view of the breast, in many instances.
As a rule of thumb, digital mammograms are often recommended for patients with denser breast tissue. It may also be best for women who have not yet entered menopause, or those who are under the age of 50. In other words, Studies have shown that digital mammograms detect up to 28 percent more cancers than film mammography in women 50 years of age and younger, premenopausal women, and in women with dense breast tissue. A 28 percent increase in accuracy means earlier detection, and most importantly, a better chance for optimal treatment.
If you feel like there may be something wrong or abnormal with your breasts, do not wait to get help. Early detection helps save lives. To learn more about the different types of mammography, call Independent Imaging at (561) 795-5558, or use our request an appointment form.