Formally known as full-field digital mammography (FFDM), digital mammography is a system where X-ray films are replaced by electronics that convert these rays into mammographic photographs of the breast. Such a system is similar to those used in digital cameras, with efficiency in producing better pictures. The breast images are then transferred to a computer for long-term storage and review by radiologists. As for the patients undergoing such procedure, they would have the same experience as with having a conventional film mammography.
While this procedure is praised for its advantages, it also actually has its own set of disadvantages that is difficult to ignore.
List of Advantages of Digital Mammography
1. It is time-efficient.
As there will no waiting for film to be developed, images produced by digital mammography will be available immediately, and technologists will be able to evaluate the quality of the photos as they are taken. This means that, as patient, you will spend less time in the screening room and would rarely need to return for repeat examinations due to exposures.
2. It is easier to see slight differences between tissues.
With this procedure, technologists can adjust darkness, brightness or contrast and magnify sections of an image after the mammogram is complete, which makes it easier to see subtle differences between tissues. It is important to be able to increase contrast when imaging dense tissues, which appear to be white on film, similar to malignant cells.
3. It requires lower average radiation dosage.
Digital mammography often takes more views of the breast than film mammography, while use less radiation. The reason for this is that smaller areas of the breast will be imaged in each view.
List of Disadvantages of Digital Mammography
1. It is costlier than standard mammography.
Basically, this mammogram system costs multiple times as much as the standard film mammography. While procedural time being saved using this technology would justify part of the expenses for facilities performing several thousand mammograms every year, it is not seen to justify the benefits in detecting breast cancer.
2. It has lower spatial resolution.
Another disadvantage of this system is the lower spatial resolution resolved by digital geometrical magnification to increase projected images of calcifications above the resolution’s lowest limit. Particularly, there is a precociously analyzed issue where the image magnification on the monitor alone is not a substitute for true geometric magnification with fine focus. Also, this technology is not known to eliminate the need of patient recall for additional incidences with true geometric magnification.
3. It still experiences some serious difficulties.
Digital mammography systems are more sensitive to ambient temperature than the analog units—an area where film-screen mammography is still superior to the digital type. And with slightly smaller sizes in very large breasts, digital images need to be taken in a patchwork pattern, which is harder to read.
Before you agree to undergo digital mammography, it is best to know first its advantages and disadvantages. By weighing them down, you can make a decision that is best for yourself.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.