Digital Mammography

Digital mammography (DM) is superior to screen-film mammography for women with dense breasts due to its ability to selectively optimise contrast in areas of dense parenchymal (glandular and fibrous) tissues.  Early detection programmes for breast cancer will, in the future, consist of personalised image processing and computer-aided diagnosis. DM, or full-field digital mammography (FFDM), is based on X-ray technology used in conventional mammograms.

The main difference is that DM uses solid-state detectors instead of film to record the breast X-ray pattern. These detectors work by converting the X-rays into electronic signals sent to a computer. These electronic signals are then transformed into images that can be digitally displayed and stored. There are several advantages of using DM over film mammography. These include the ability to manipulate the image contrast for better resolution and the capability to use computer-aided detection of abnormalities.

In addition, there is also the ability to transmit digital files to other breast imaging experts.  Subsequently, digital mammograms are less prone to film development problems than film mammography.  Therefore, digital mammography results in a reduction of x-ray exposure.

In a large study, 5,102 women were exposed to radiation during mammography; 50,000 women participated in a more extensive DM study called Digital Mammographic Imaging Screening Trials (DMIST) from October 2001 to October 2003.  These breast cancer screening studies concluded that DM and screen-film mammography involved radiation doses of 3.7 and 4.7 mGy, respectively. The GOV.UK website also has breast cancer screening information.

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