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New Digital-Imaging Mammograms Beneficial for Younger Women, Women with Dense Breasts

separator A large, landmark study has shown that new mammograms that use digital imaging rather than traditional x-rays to detect cancer are beneficial for younger women and women whose breasts are more dense. There were 42,670 women participating in the trial, which was funded by the National Cancer Institute.

Women under 50 tend to have denser breasts, which make it more difficult for standard x-rays to penetrate. Digital images, on the other hand, can magnify areas that look suspicious.

The women in the trial underwent both types of mammograms. Two radiologists, working independently, reviewed the results. Women with suspicious findings had biopsies to determine whether cancer was present. Results showed that the digital mammograms were 15 percent more accurate for women under 50 than the standard film x-rays. For women over 50, those past menopause and those who do not have dense breasts, film x-ray was as effective as digital imaging.

Additional advantages of the digital tests are that they can be stored on a computer and sent electronically. However, digital mammography is more expensive, so when it’s necessary to determine who should receive this type of mammogram, professionals and patients now have some guidelines.

Online Issue of New England Journal of Medicine, September 2005
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