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New Digital Mammogram Provides Better and Clearer Results

A new kind of mammogram is more effective in helping doctors spot breast cancer, but it is only effective for certain women.

A new study by the American College of Radiology found that digital mammograms are more effective in detecting breast cancer in some women than traditional x-rays.

Doctor Edward Pien, with Georgetown University Hospital in Washington D.C. says, "Digital is faster, there's less radiation involved, and in many cases you get a clearer picture of what's going on. You can look at contrast, you can manipulate what the image looks like, and you can look for subtle cancers more easily. If you do film screen mammography, you have one chance to make an exposure and you can't do much in the way of post processing or fooling around with it the way you would with digital mammography."

The study, which tested more than 49,000 women, found that digital mammography detected up to 28 percent more cancers in certain women. But Doctor Gillian Newstead of the University of Chicago says the tests are limited.

"The kinds of cancers that we miss are those that are in a dense breast setting and particularly in younger women."

Even though digital tests are not effective for post-menopausal women, who make up a large percentage of those who get mammograms, doctors and hospitals expect digital tests to become more popular because they can be stored on a computer and sent electronically when a patient moves or switches doctor's offices.

Because of their high cost -- up to four times more than film systems -- digital mammograms currently account for only eight percent of U.S. mammography equipment.

Doctor Pien says the most important thing to remember is, "Whether or not you have a digital mammogram that's available to you, traditional mammography is still a very good tool and you shouldn't delay getting a mammogram just because you can't get a digital mammogram."