Breast cancer is the second most common diagnosed cancer in women in the United States. Deaths caused by breast cancer have declined over the past 20 years coming from a result of improved screening and treatment techniques. Digital Mammograms are the preferred diagnostic test to find breast cancer in its early stages.
A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray of the breast, used to screen for abnormal changes in breast tissue. Breasts will be flattened between two special plates before X-rays are used to take the image and the test lasts for about 20 minutes. Multiple tests are taken and compared to see what changes have occurred over time. The x-rays are turned into electric signals and stored digitally where computers can easily retrieve and compare tests. Mammograms are used as a screening tool to detect early breast cancer in patients. Annual screening is recommended for women starting at age 40. This type of mammogram is for women with no known problems and is used to look for abnormalities in the breasts.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine compared digital mammograms to film mammograms. The study involved 49,000 United States women and found that digital mammograms are superior for:
- women under 50 years of age
- women who have not yet gone through menopause, or who have been in menopause less than one year
- women with dense breasts
- Digital mammography
- Stereotactic, ultrasound and MRI-guided breast biopsies
- Breast ultrasound
- Breast MRI