CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Sept. 19, 2005 -- Digital mammographythat uses computers to detect breast cancer found significantly (up to28%) more cancers than screen film mammography in women 50 and younger,premenopausal and perimenopausal women, and women with dense breasts,according to results from one of the largest breast cancer screeningstudies ever performed.
However, the study showed no differencebetween digital and standard x-ray mammography in detecting breastcancer for the general population of women. More than 1,300 women tookpart in the trial at the University of Virginia Health System, one of33 sites in the U.S. and Canada to study the effectiveness of digitalmammogram technology.
“It’s important for every women to get aquality mammogram. But if you’re under 50, premenopausal or know youhave dense breast tissue, you should consider having a digitalmammogram at your next scheduled screening,” said Dr. Jennifer Harvey,a radiologist and head of breast imaging at the UVa Health System andsite investigator for the trial at UVa. “However, women should notdelay getting a mammogram if only film screen technology is available.Traditional film screen mammograms save lives as well.”
Digitalmammography takes an electronic image of the breast and stores itdirectly in a computer, allowing the recorded data to be enhanced,magnified, or manipulated for further evaluation. The electronic imagealso can be printed on film. Film mammography units use film to bothcapture and display the image. The sensitivity of film mammography issomewhat limited in women with dense breasts, a population at higherrisk for breast cancer.
UVa has been performing digitalmammography as part of research studies since the mid-1990’s and forclinical use since 2001. The breast program at UVa currently has threeGE digital mammogram machines for patients, two in the Breast CareCenter in the West Complex and one at Northridge. A fourth digitalmachine is expected in mid-October to be housed in UVa’s mobilemammography van.
According to the National Cancer Institute,breast cancer is the most common non-skin cancer, and the secondleading cause of cancer-related death in women in the United States. Anestimated 211,240 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and anestimated 40,410 women will die of the disease in the U.S. in 2005.
Theresults of the trial, called DMIST (Digital Mammographic ImagingScreening Trial), are reported in a special online publication of theNew England Journal of Medicine. The trial was funded by the NCI andconducted by the American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN).
Startingin October 2001, DMIST enrolled nearly 50,000 women who had no signs ofbreast cancer. Women in the trial were given both digital and filmmammograms. Mammograms were interpreted independently by two differentradiologists. Breast cancer status of the participants was determinedthrough breast biopsy or follow-up mammography.
“I am veryproud of the accomplishments of the DMIST researchers,” said Dr. BruceHillman, a professor of radiology at the UVa Health System and chair ofACRIN.
“This landmark trial, along with others currently beingconducted by ACRIN, will influence the appropriate care for womeneverywhere.”
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