Every day, more aspects of our lives are available in digital format: television, radio, and even photo albums. Leading the curve in the digital revolution was mammography, which has been available in a digital format since the mid 1990’s. The technology has continued to evolve over the years, and now many breast care centers offer sophisticated diagnostic technology.
The Difference between Film and Digital
Remember Polaroid cameras? The photographer took one shot, and the film processed after the photographer flapped the film back and forth. At the time, Polaroid cameras represented cutting-edge technology. But while Polaroids were relatively fast, there was no way to manipulate the image once it was taken. And often there was no easy opportunity to go back and “recapture” that moment if the film was under- or over-exposed.
The same can happen with traditional x-ray film. The radiologist has one opportunity to get the shot—and if that image is exposed incorrectly, the picture might not show up accurately. Especially with women who have dense breast tissue, the limitations of x-ray film mean that technicians often don’t catch potential breast lumps. One study found that about 10 to 20% of lumps detected through manual examination did not even show up on traditional mammograms, mostly due to film processing problems.
During a digital mammogram, the exam process is exactly the same as it is for a traditional mammogram. However, instead of the image being processed onto x-ray film, it is sent directly to a computer. The radiologist then reads the results from the computer screen, with the help of Computer-Assisted Detection (CAD). Test results are available instantaneously and can be stored electronically. It’s much like using a digital camera instead of that old Polaroid!
Digital Offers Clear Advantages
For women under 50, who have extremely dense breast tissue, or who are entering menopause, digital mammography is an especially invaluable tool. Women in these groups are more prone to aggressive forms of breast cancer that need to be caught and treated as early as possible. Even women who run a lower risk for breast cancer enjoy many benefits of digital mammography:
- With digital mammography, there is generally a lower rate of false positives. That means that women are called in less for unnecessary follow-up.
- Since proper film exposure is no longer a factor, women do not have to return for repeat exams, reducing time spent and radiation exposure.
- Results are available right away, decreasing patients’ wait time.
- Data can be stored and transmitted electronically, facilitating communication among multiple healthcare providers.
If you’re looking for the advantages of digital mammography, along with the latest technology in breast care, please contact us at St. Petersburg General Hospital. Our Breast Center offers unparalleled care for women of all ages. Visit us onlineor call (727) 341-4999 to schedule your appointment. We even have evening and weekend times available!