Mammography continues to be one of the best methods of discovering breast cancer, and standard diagnostic mammograms are usually reliable and accurate. For many women, however, a digital mammogram is a better diagnostic tool than a film mammogram. Additionally, digital mammograms are faster, provide more options for evaluating suspicious findings, can be magnified and enhanced for a more thorough evaluation, and significantly reduce the need for additional mammograms. The UAMS Breast Center is entirely digital.
The New England Journal of Medicine published a study by the National Cancer Institute that included statistics on 42,760 women located at 33 sites across the United States and Canada. Each woman in the study underwent both digital and film mammography to determine if the digital procedure was more accurate in detecting breast cancer than film screen technique. The status of participants was based on the result of breast biopsies done within 15 months and follow-up mammograms done at least 10 months after entering the study.
The landmark results showed that the accuracy of digital mammograms was significantly greater than film mammograms in detecting breast cancer for the following groups:
- Women who are younger than 50
- Women who have dense breasts
- Women who are premenopausal
- Women who had their last menstrual period within 12 months of the test
The American Cancer Society recommends that all women receive annual mammography beginning at age 45.
These guidelines are for women at average risk for breast cancer. Women with a personal history of breast cancer, a family history of breast cancer, a genetic mutation known to increase risk of breast cancer (such as BRCA), and women who had radiation therapy to the chest before the age of 30 are at higher risk for breast cancer, not average-risk. (See below for guidelines for women at higher than average risk.)
Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so. The risks of screening as well as the potential benefits should be considered.
Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
Women age 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or have the choice to continue yearly screening.
Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.
All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations, and potential harms associated with breast cancer screening. They should also be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to a health care provider right away.
When detected in its early stages, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer patients is 95%. After the disease spreads to the lymph nodes, the five-year survival rate drops to 60%.
Please contact our Breast Center to learn more about digital mammograms or to schedule an appointment.