Digital Mammography

Digital mammography

What are the benefits of digital mammography?

Does a digital mammogram find all breast cancers?

Are there any other tests to detect breast cancer?

Why aren't young women supposed to have mammograms?

Aren't I supposed to be getting a mammogram only if I am in a high risk category?

 

Digital mammography

A digital mammogram is a newer version of a routine mammogram. The only difference is that x-rays of each breast are obtained and viewed using computerized digital technology in the place of traditional film. Digital mammography is available at all our locations: Batavia, Brighton, Geneseo, Greece and Victor.

What are the benefits of digital mammography?

Digital mammography allows radiologists to electronically manipulate the digital images, potentially saving patients from undergoing additional views and therefore additional radiation; these views are sometimes necessary to make a diagnosis. The ability to manipulate the digital images has been shown to improve the sensitivity of mammography in women with dense breast tissue.

Does a digital mammogram find all breast cancers?

Unfortunately, no.  Doctors have no single 100% effective method for detecting breast cancer.  Many cancers are too small or soft to be felt, but can be seen on a mammogram.  That's why screening mammograms are so important. However, not all cancers behave in the same way.  Some types of cancer can be felt more easily than they can be seen in a mammogram. 

Therefore, the best way to detect breast cancer is by combining breast self-examination, a clinical breast exam by your doctor, and the mammogram.  If you discover a breast lump, it is important to let the technologist know about it when you are having your mammogram if you haven’t called prior to your mammogram to let our staff know. The radiologist (doctor) that will interpret your mammogram needs this information in order to decide if other tests need to be done with the mammogram such as  images specific to the area of the lump or an ultrasound. 

If you discover a breast lump, and a mammogram is performed and you receive normal results, this doesn't mean you or your doctor should ignore the breast lump.  Let the staff at our facility know and additional testing will be performed such as additional images with mammography and or ultrasound. If you have a normal screening mammogram, and then develop a new lump, you should have it checked by your doctor.  Mammograms do not detect ALL cancers.  One out of every eight women develops breast cancer. 

Are there any other tests to detect breast cancer?

Yes, there are other tests used to detect breast cancer. Mammography is considered the gold standard, but other tests are often used as an adjunct to mammography in diagnostic situations or for high-risk patients.  These include ultrasonography needle biopsies and breast MRI. Many other tests and technologies are currently being investigated to see if they may be helpful.

Why aren't young women supposed to have mammograms?

Because radiation is involved in mammography, it's best not to perform mammography on a young women unless there is good reason. Fortunately recent medical advances now allow us to perform mammograms at a very low x-ray dose.  The x-ray dose for a mammogram is now so low that it is less than the small amount of stray radiation that our breasts receive each year from the ground and sky. The American Cancer Society recommends that women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health.

Aren't I supposed to be getting a mammogram only if I am in a high risk category?

The single most important risk factor is womanhood!  Women are 100 times more likely to develop breast cancer than men: therefore you're in a high risk category just because you are a woman.  Also, the older you are, the more likely you are to have breast cancer.  Other risk factors are:  1) a positive family history of a mother, sister or daughter with breast cancer; 2) dense breast tissue (which can't be determined until your first mammogram has been performed).  Having dense tissue means that it may be more difficult for the doctor to read your mammogram. 

Most women diagnosed with breast cancer, however, have no risk factors other than the most important one which is being a woman. If we only imaged women with strong family history of breast cancer and other risk factors we would miss many breast cancers being diagnosed. 

 

This page is intended as an educational resource only. It is not a substitute for professional care. Please see your physician if you have any concerns about your own health.