Full-field digital mammography (FFDM) is an alternative to film mammography for breast cancer screening and diagnosis. Like conventional mammography, FFDM uses x-rays to produce images of the breast. An electronic detector plate converts x-rays into digital images that can be reviewed and archived on a computer. A radiologist can manipulate the brightness, contrast and other features of a digital mammogram with post-processing tools. FFDM attempts to detect breast cancer at an earlier stage than film mammography while also reducing the radiation dose to the patient.
Computer-aided detection systems are also available with FFDM to facilitate lesion detection. FFDM offers detection benefits over film mammography for some patients. It is more diagnostically accurate than film in women younger than 50, women with radiographically dense breasts, and in premenopausal and perimenopausal women. Since time-consuming film processing is eliminated, technologists can assess each image immediately after exposure, reducing patient wait time.
Digital mammography images can also be stored and retrieved easily and transmitted electronically for review by another radiologist. However, digital mammography is much more costly than film mammography, and it does not appear to offer any benefit for women who do not fall in one of the above categories. Standard film mammography is used more today than digital mammography, though digital mammography is becoming more available. Insurance coverage for digital mammography varies.
Benefits of digital mammography
- Ability to improve contrast between dense and nondense breast tissue.
- Ability to take images in a shorter period of time.
- Reduced exam time for patients.
- Reduced need for patients to return after screening for additional film studies.
- Quicker results for patients.
- Easier image storage and quicker retrieval of pictures when needed.
- More accurate detection of breast cancer because of ability to zoom in and magnify an area.
- Ability to transmit images to another physician's computer for a second opinion.
Women's imaging performs mammography, including needle localization of breast masses and bone densitometry studies, which assists in determining osteoporosis. Mammography results are available to patients at the completion of the study.