Schools Training

The Digital Fight Against Breast Cancer: Film Versus Digital Mammography

14 SEP 2012
Career Path : Healthcare

Breast cancer is one of the oldest forms of cancer that we know about. This is because unlike most other cancers of the internal organs, breast cancer can be felt and sometimes seen without the use of technological equipment. Sadly, however, simply because it is easier to diagnose breast cancer does not mean it is easier to treat. When breast cancer becomes plainly noticeable, there is a great likelihood that it is already in later stages of development.


Today, we are aware that the best fight against any cancer is early detection. In regards to breast cancer, mammograms are the most common form of regular testing and are recommended for all women over 40 years old to get tested every few years. Mammography utilizes low-energy X-rays that detect irregularities in the breast tissue. Up until not long ago, film was used as a way of detecting and recording the mammogram results, known as film-screen mammography. Today, with the advancements of digital technology, film is being replaced with digital detectors, otherwise known as full-field digital mammography.


What are some of the differences between the two systems and what are some of the advantages of digital mammography?




Digital mammography is far more sensitive when it comes to creating images than film mammography. Because the X-rays must penetrate breast tissue, which can be very dense, the more sensitive the detector the better the quality of the image. More importantly than image quality is the digital capability of perceiving or picking up on things that would be concealed under tissue density with film.




Digital mammography uses lower doses of radiation than its predecessor. There is always a slight risk that when undergoing regular X-ray examinations, that radiation could cause cancer, although this risk is negligible compared to non-detection of tumors. Nevertheless, the lower the radiation, the better.


Storage and Transmission


Digital mammograms create digital images which can be altered or modified whereas film images cannot. This means that factors like lighting, blurriness, and magnification can be easily manipulated with digital images. Also, because they are digital, they can be copied, stored and sent electronically much easier than with film. The speed and ease of patient information-sharing plays a strong role in the optimal treatment of cancer.


Full-field digital mammography is an example of how health and technology work together to provide more accurate and more efficient detection of breast cancer, which results in fewer cases of breast cancer mortality. The one significant disadvantage to digital mammography is the cost of the equipment, and thus fewer people have access to this equipment for the time being. But in the long run, the considerations of cost are far less important than providing the best medical services and ultimately saving lives.


Healthcare training should continue to maximize the use and understanding of digital technologies as much as possible. With the progress made in mammography as an example, digital technology should extend beyond cancer detection into all aspects of the healthcare industry.



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