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Building on basics

Defining what digital can do

Digital mammography is a new technology. "One advantage to digital mammography is that it allows us to manipulate the image to improve contrast and, hopefully, allows us to improve detection of breast cancer," Lindfors said.

Therefore, radiologists may be able to see a cancer better or be able to better distinguish a benign abnormality. This is especially critical for women who have dense breasts. The tissue in dense breasts appears white on X-ray film, as do cancerous cells, making it more difficult to detect cancer, Lindfors explained.

"It may be better because we can enhance certain features to aid visualization of those things we can't see in a dense breast with regular mammography," Lindfors said. "But we really don't know the answer to that yet."

There isn't much research out there comparing digital with standard mammography. Two smaller studies found there was no increased sensitivity with digital mammography, but there was a reduction in the number of times women had to be called back for further examination when the mammogram showed a possible abnormality.


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