Digital mammography better for some women

New technology helps see through breast tissue that can hide cancers.

In recent years, advanced imaging technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, and digital imaging have been used in breast cancer screening. But it hasn't been clear whether any of these techniques offered a better way of spotting breast cancer than standard mammography. While new technologies can help improve image quality or make diagnosis more precise, they haven't replaced traditional mammography.

However, that could change, in light of results from the Digital Mammographic Imaging Screening Trial (DMIST), a large clinical study of digital versus traditional mammography. The DMIST trial was funded by the National Cancer Institute and led by investigators at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Researchers in the United States and Canada used both technologies to examine the breasts of nearly 50,000 women, ages 47–62. For the group as a whole, digital was neither better nor worse than standard mammography. But in women most likely to have dense breasts, digital did a better job of locating breast cancers. The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine (October 27, 2005) and online at www.nejm.org.

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