Most people have seen the commercials on television, heard about it on the radio, or come across a magazine article about mammograms. The importance of having one done, and the benefits and peace of mind that comes with it, are all pointed out. Many people, however, do not really understand the difference between digital mammograms and more traditional film mammogram.
Simply put, any kind of mammogram is a form of X-ray of the breast tissue. The main difference is that older systems rely on film and digital images are viewed on a computer. Digital mammograms are also easier to view and manipulate. The radiologist can highlight areas, zoom in and out, and use specific filters to gain a more accurate view of the breast in many instances.
Benefits of Digital Mammography Include:
- Mammograms printed on film required hard files that were stored with your medical history. Digital mammography is stored on a computer and can be easily shared electronically, allowing providers to share necessary data in order to improve your care.
- Digital mammography uses ¼ less radiation than its older counterpart. While the earlier doses have proven to cause no harm, less radiation is generally better.
- Lastly, the doctors and radiologists can observe more due to better picture clarity and the ability to alter the photos. Our exceptional radiologists can lighten, darken and enlarge these images almost like an app on your phone. This can make detecting abnormal changes much more accurate, due to the detail provided.
Patients should understand that digital mammograms might create a few more false positives because of the nature of the testing itself. If you think of a cancer screening such as a mammogram as a fishing net, you can easily imagine that the finer the weave, the more fish get caught.
This means that the screening is going to pick up even minute changes and differences in tissue that may or may not be relevant. This is known as specificity. Having a high specificity means that more things can get caught up in the net. Specificity is always a balancing act in that it obviously picks up more, but not all of it is actually important.
So why set the detail so high? Because 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.
When is Digital Mammography Recommended?
As a rule of thumb, digital mammograms are often recommended for patients with denser breast tissue. It may also be superior for women who have not yet entered menopause or those who are under the age of 50.
Have a question? Ask our compassionate and trained medical staff at Independent Imaging. Call (561) 795-5558 today, or go online to make an appointment that could save your life. Our board-certified radiologists are right here waiting in the Lake Worth, Wellington, Belle Glade, or Royal Palm Beach areas. Allow us to explain how a digital mammogram can work for you.