A mammogram is an X-ray examination of the breast. It is performed to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages, often before any signs or symptoms of the disease are present. A digital mammogram can offer patients faster and more accurate results than a traditional X-ray exam. A digital mammogram is similar to a traditional mammogram, and X-ray technology is still used to produce the image of the breast. However, instead of capturing the image on film, digital mammography captures the image directly to the doctor's computer for fast, easy viewing. The X-ray waves are converted into electrical signals, similar to the way they are in a digital camera. Compression of the breast is still needed to produce an accurate image. Digital mammograms are approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration, and offer results comparable to, if not better than, conventional exams.
The Benefits of Digital Mammography
With a digital mammogram, the images can be viewed and sent to the patient's radiologist right away. They can also be sent instantly to another doctor, regardless of the doctor's location. As a result, if additional images are requested, there is still time to take them during the initial visit, sparing the patient the inconvenience of a return trip.
In addition to convenience, digital mammograms are more accurate, especially in detecting cancer in women younger than 50 or in women with dense breasts, than film mammograms. There is also less radiation used than with film mammograms, thereby reducing the patient's lifetime exposure to radiation.