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Digital Mammography: Improving Patient Comfort

written by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 12/16/2008

Digital mammography can reduce the amount of time needed to complete mammograms and needle biopsies and may also improve patient comfort. Find out how digital mammography compares to traditional mammography.

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    Many advances have been made in breast cancer screening and diagnosis. One of the best advances in terms of patient comfort has been the advent of digital mammography as a screening tool for breast cancer and other breast conditions. Digital mammography is making it possible for physicians to accurately diagnose breast conditions while reducing the amount of time it takes to complete a needle biopsy or mammogram image acquisition. This means increased comfort for patients and the possibility of a better medical outcome. Learn more about digital mammography and how it benefits patients and physicians.

    Digital vs. Traditional Mammography

    With traditional mammography, the images being taken were taken on X-ray cassettes and developed using traditional X-ray film. The film is printed and the radiologist uses a light box to view the images. With digital mammography, the images are not transferred to film. Instead, they appear as digital images that can be viewed on a computer. There are several benefits to using digital mammography.

    Benefits

    One of the major benefits of digital mammography is that it eliminates the need for film development while a mammogram is being performed. With traditional mammography, the patient had to wait while the film was developed, and if additional images were needed, she would have to go through the procedure again.

    Digital mammography shows the images being taken immediately, so technologists know if additional images are needed. These images can be taken during the procedure so that the patient does not have to have additional images taken at a later time.Another benefit of digital mammography is that needle biopsies can be guided using the digital images, reducing the amount of time needed to complete such a biopsy.

    In the past, doctors had to wait for film to be developed before they could complete the biopsy, which lengthened the time the patient had to wait for the procedure to be completed. Digital images appear immediately, so doctors can complete the biopsy in a much shorter amount of time.Digital mammography has also been shown to improve diagnosis of breast cancer in certain groups of women. While diagnostic accuracy did not show any improvement in women over the age of fifty without a history of dense breast tissue, some groups of women did benefit from the use of digital mammography. They include women under fifty, women with dense breast tissue, and pre- and peri-menopausal women.

    Future Anticipated Benefits

    While digital mammography can help improve patient comfort and reduce the time needed to complete mammograms and needle biopsies, researchers expect that digital mammography will have even more benefits in the future. Right now, digital mammography is comparable to traditional mammography in terms of diagnostic accuracy. It is expected that digital mammography will offer improved tissue contrast and more accurate diagnosis of breast cancer in the future.