A landmark study found that mammogramsusing digital imaging to helpdetect breast cancer are better thanstandard x-rays for young women andthose with dense breasts. The newertest, however, is not a better indicatorfor most postmenopausal women.
Each of the 42,760 participantsreceived both types of mammograms.The results were independently reviewedby 2 radiologists, and biopsiesdetermined whether suspicious findingswere indeed cancer. Follow-upexaminations were conducted a yearlater to determine how many cancershad been missed the first time around.The researchers had detected a total of335 breast cancers. Both mammogramsmissed about 30% of them.
Specifically, the digital mammogramswere 15% more accurate, comparedwith standard film x-rays inwomen under age 50. For women withdense breasts and those not goingthrough menopause, digital mammogramswere 11% and 15% better,respectively. Although digital mammogramsare more expensive and arenot widely used today, physiciansexpect that they will become the normbecause of their advantages. Digitalmammograms can be stored on acomputer and sent electronically whenevera woman moves or a new physicianneeds to review them.