Make sure your next annual mammogram is digital. Digital mammography is your strongest ally in the fight against breast cancer. Digital images appear in seconds on a computer screen, revealing an exciting world of diagnostic possibilities.

Why is digital mammography better than film mammography?

With film mammography, X-ray beams are captured on a film cassette. The film is developed, and a radiologist reviews the film on a light box. If the images are unclear, the mammogram might need to be repeated.

With digital mammography, the X-ray beams are converted by sensors and sent to a computer. Since there is no need to develop film, the radiologist views the images on a high-resolution computer monitor in half the time of traditional, film-based exams. This reduces the time needed to conduct a mammogram.

The ability to manipulate the image is another benefit of digital technology. The radiologist can adjust the brightness, change contrast and zoom in for close-ups of specific areas to help detect small calcifications, masses and other changes that might be signs of early cancer.

Advantages of Digital Mammography

  • Because there's no waiting for film to be developed, digital images are immediately available; the technologist can evaluate the quality of the images as they're taken
  • Patients rarely need to return for repeat images due to under or over exposures
  • The digital machine is fast, so patients spend less time in the exam room in uncomfortable positions
  • Brightness, darkness, or contrast can be adjusted, and sections of an image can be magnified after the mammogram is complete, making it easier to see subtle differences between tissues; the ability to increase contrast when imaging dense tissue is particularly important because dense breast tissue and malignant cells both appear white on a film mammogram
  • Digital images are easily stored and retrieved
  • Electronic transmission of images from one physician to another is quick and easy
  • Digital technology provides a platform for new technologies, such as Computer Aided Detection (CAD) software, advancing the early detection of breast cancer
Digital mammography also allows other physicians to receive images quickly. Gone are the days of picking up film at a hospital and driving it to a specialist. Now a simple e-mail can be sent to specialists, notifying them of images ready for review.

A recent study of about 50,000 women reported that digital mammograms were actually better than film mammograms in picking up cancers in certain groups of women, including women with particularly dense breasts, women younger than 50 and women who are premenopausal or perimenopausal. Digital Mammogram Study 

As a supplement to the new digital technology, Christian Hospital and Northwest HealthCare will continue to use digital, computer-aided detection (CAD). Often referred to as a "second set of eyes," CAD digitally scans mammogram images and flags abnormalities to help radiologists detect early areas of concern.

"Our goal is to provide exceptional care to the women of our community," says Heather Hawkins, manager, Imaging Services. "Digital mammography allows us to deliver even more advanced personalized care to our patients in the fight against breast cancer."

The American Cancer Society recommends all women have a baseline screening between 35 and 40. Starting at 40, women should have an annual mammogram. Most Illinois insurance carriers cover the cost of this annual mammography screening beginning at 40, regardless if it is film or digital technology. Women with family history or other risk factors should speak with their physicians about beginning annual screening mammograms at an earlier age.

To schedule a digital mammogram, call Christian Hospital at 314.747.9355 or 877.747.9355.