A Clear Answer

A daughter hugs her mother as they participate in a breast cancer walk.
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The call came one afternoon. The physician would like to take more images of your breasts. Don’t worry, its just to have a better picture of your tissue.

If you’ve experienced this call, your mind races and chances are you’re thinking the worst: cancer.

One tool helping remove some of the anxiety in diagnosing and treating cancer is digital mammography. Like conventional (analog) mammograms, digital versions take X-ray images. The difference is that digital mammograms create clearer images that can be displayed and enhanced on a computer for a closer look. Conventional mammograms store images on film, where they cant be manipulated.

Having trouble imagining this? Think of your new digital camera, versus an old 35 MM, that lets you crop images, enhance colors, zoom in from afar and see them immediately.

Demand for Digital

The demand is occurring because for certain women those with dense breast tissue, meaning lots of glandular and connective tissue. it's better than film at finding tumors, says Jennie Yoon, MD, board-certified diagnostic radiologist and medical director of Women’s Imaging for AdventHealth.

High breast density increases the risk of breast cancer, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. On a mammogram, cancer may be obscured by dense breast tissue. Also, tissue may be more vulnerable to malignancy, a possibility researchers are exploring. Although dense tissue is more common in younger women, nearly 40 percent of women over age 50 have dense breasts.

Digital's also good at picking up tiny calcium deposits, or calcifications, which can be, but are not always, a sign of cancer.

Dr. Yoon says another digital advantage includes adjusting features such as contrast and magnification (like you do with digital images from your camera) and seeing things that were blurry or even invisible on film. This increased clarity should result in fewer callbacks of healthy women and increased detection of small cancers.

Additionally, radiation exposure is lower with digital mammograms. AdventHealth strives to keep this as low as possible.

Other benefits include online storing and sharing of images, which isn’t the case for older film versions. Images can even be sent electronically to your physicians office ahead of time for visits, eliminating the need to travel with bulky files.

Digital mammograms are offered at all AdventHealth and Florida Radiology Imaging (FRi) centers throughout Central Florida.

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