Harvard Health Letter

Tests for breast cancer

Mammography is going digital. But is it better than film?

New imaging technology has changed almost every aspect of medical care, and mammography, the main form of breast cancer screening, is no exception. Ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and digital mammography are now available, either to complement the standard mammogram or, in the case of digital mammogram, possibly to replace it.

At the same time as all of this innovation, there are some indications of waning interest and adherence. In 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported survey results that showed the proportion of women who said they'd had a mammogram within the past two years had fallen by 1.8 percentage points between 2000 and 2005. That may not seem like much of a drop, but it represents more than a million American women forgoing regular mammograms. A study published in 2006 that included more than 146,000 women in their late 60s found that about 40% hadn't gotten a mammogram in the preceding two years.

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