TUESDAY, Oct. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Digital mammography was
better than the older film mammography at detecting cancers that
could be life-threatening, Dutch researchers report.
"This study again proves that digital mammography is superior to film screen mammography in early detection of breast cancer," said Dr. Kristin Byrne, chief of breast imaging at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
The study comparing the two methods was published online Oct. 2
in the journal
Researchers from the National Expert and Training Centre for
Breast Cancer Screening and other institutions evaluated a total of
about 1.2 million screening mammograms.
More than 87 percent were film and nearly 13 percent were
Breast cancer was found in more than 6,400 women during the
study period. Cancers were detected at higher rates with digital
than with film.
Digital found more cancers known as high-grade ductal carcinoma
in situ (DCIS), which can progress more rapidly to invasive cancer
than low-grade DCIS. Low-grade DCIS typically takes more than three
decades to progress, although all grades can progress and become
High-grade DCIS was detected 58.5 percent of the time with
digital, but only 50.5 percent of the time with film.
Digital did not result in a disproportionate increase in the
detection of low-grade lesions, which may never trouble a woman in
Both film and digital mammograms use X-rays to take an image of
the breast. In film mammograms, the image is recorded on film.
Digital mammograms store the image on a computer. Doctors can then
enhance them on a computer screen and adjust the size, brightness
or contrast to focus on certain areas.
Previous research in the United States has found that digital is
better than film for certain groups, including women under age 50
with dense breasts.
The new study ''in some ways confirms what we have seen in
earlier studies," said Dr. Debra Monticciolo, professor of
radiology at Texas A&M College of Medicine and section chief of
breast imaging. She also is president of the Society of Breast
Imaging and a member of the American College of Radiology
Commission on Breast Imaging.
"What they've shown with digital is that we are better at finding the cancers that have the most potential to harm the patients," she said. That includes the invasive and higher-grade DCIS.
The Dutch researchers pointed out that their approach to
screening is different than that in the United States. The Dutch
focus is on a balance between detection, recall and
false-positives. The U.S. focus, they say, is more on high
detection rates, which means higher recall and false-positive
Women who have access only to film mammography should know that
it, too, is a proven lifesaver, although digital has been shown in
much research to be the better detector, Monticciolo said.
To learn more about mammograms, visit the
American Cancer Society.