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Women's Health

Understanding Digital Mammograms

It's time for your annual mammogram, and you've just learned that you're going to have a digital one at IVCH.

If you've never had a digital mammogram, you might be wondering, what the difference is between it and a more traditional film mammogram. Both use x-rays to capture images of the breasts. (And yes, your breasts still have to be compressed for a digital mammogram—there's no escaping that part of the procedure.) The difference is how those images are recorded and stored.

A traditional mammogram displays images on a large piece of film. A radiologist studies the film for any suspicious-looking areas in the breasts.

A digital mammogram, on the other hand, converts x-rays into electrical signals that are sent to a computer. The images produced can be enhanced, magnified or manipulated on a computer screen, which can help the radiologist see specific areas of the breasts more clearly. The images also can be stored electronically and transmitted from one location to another, allowing breast specialists in different locations to study them.

What are the advantages of digital mammography?

The earlier breast cancer can be found, the better the chances that treatment will work, reports the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Both digital and film mammograms can often detect breast cancer at an early stage. However, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), digital mammography is better than film mammography at finding cancers in:

  • Women with dense breasts. About 40 percent of women who undergo screening mammography have dense breasts, reports the NCI.
  • Women younger than 50, regardless of breast density.
  • Women who had their final menstrual periods within 12 months of their mammograms.

When should I schedule a mammogram?

Experts agree: Regular screening with either digital or film mammography saves lives. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.

If you're at high risk of breast cancer due to a family history of the disease or other factors, your doctor may recommend that you be tested more often and at an earlier age.

Contact Us

To schedule a mammogram appointment at IVCH, call 815.780.3199.

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