What is a digital mammogram?


Digital mammography is still the best tool to detect breast cancer. Digital mammograms use X-ray technology to create images of the breast. Digital mammography produces images that are superior in quality with less radiation than traditional film mammography. It is more effective in detecting breast cancer in women who are under age 50, premenopausal and perimenopausal, or have dense breasts. It also allows radiologists to manipulate the size, orientation, brightness and contrast of digital images and ensure a more accurate evaluation. Through computer-aided detection (CAD), radiologists can detect cancer at earlier stages when it is most treatable.

Mammography continues to be the best screening method available for breast cancer. Improvements in imaging, such as digital mammography, produce a quicker, sharper and overall enhanced image to aid in developing faster and more accurate results.

Digital mammography offers potential and practical advantages over traditional mammography and often allows for better cancer detection. These advantages include the following:
  • With digital images, the radiologist can zoom in, magnify, change the contrast of the breast image, or view it in slices, resulting in more precise images and helping reduce the need for repeat screenings.
  • Flexible plates for greater comfort
  • Exams completed in half the time of traditional mammography
  • Digital images can be sent and stored electronically, providing women with the ability to maintain an electronic file of mammograms as a reference to help radiologists better track changes. Additionally, the digital images are available almost instantly and can be transmitted electronically around the world.
The most important advantage to digital mammography is the ability to use advanced computer and electronic technologies to manipulate the image in order to better “see” certain breast tumors that are difficult to identify on a standard mammogram. Studies show that along with superior image quality, digital mammograms greatly benefit women who are younger than 50, have dense breasts and are pre- or perimenopausal.
Celeste Robb-Nicholson
Internal Medicine
Digital mammography records the x-ray images of the breasts as computer code instead of on film, as with conventional mammography. Because radiologists can magnify or zoom in on areas of the digital image, it may enable them to detect subtle differences in breast tissue better than a conventional mammogram. However, studies have not shown that digital mammography is more effective at detecting cancer than conventional mammography, except perhaps in women who have dense breasts and are younger than 50. Regardless of your age, it's worth asking if your facility offers digital mammograms, because the images can be stored and retrieved electronically, which makes long-distance consultations with other specialists easier.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.