Digital mammography is perhaps most like traditional film-based X-ray mammography. Film is, however, replaced with digital imaging sensors, much like those used in today’s digital cameras. Because of the efficiency of digital sensors, better images can be obtained with lower doses of X-ray radiation. Digital mammograms can be stored easily and transmitted electronically.
Computer-aided detection (CAD) systems can “read between the lines” of digitized mammogram images, identifying areas of abnormal density, mass, or calcification, which may indicate the presence of cancer. The CAD system can then highlight suspect areas, reducing the chances that an area of irregularity is missed.
Breast tomosynthesis is also called 3D mammography. Multiple images are taken from several angles, then synthesized into a three-dimensional image in much the same way as computed tomography creates 3D views of other parts of the body. Though the multiple images increase the dosage of X-rays, these still fall under safe guidelines, about the level of traditional film mammography.
The advantages of breast tomosynthesis are many. Detection rates are higher with fewer false-positive abnormal findings. As well, breast tomosynthesis provides:
- Greater accuracy in locating the size and shape of an irregularity
- Earlier detection of small cancers
- Fewer unwarranted biopsies
- Better performance at identifying multiple tumors
- Clearer images of tumors in dense breast tissue