Harvard Women's Health Watch

Real-time digital mammograms more accurate than computed radiography

Originally, mammograms were performed using film to capture the breast image. Increasingly, mammograms use one of two digital techniques: direct radiography (DR) or computed radiography (CR). Both techniques allow the digital image to be available for interpretation almost instantaneously, and to be transmitted electronically to any doctor or hospital, but a new study published in the journal Radiology finds that DR may be superior to CR. In the study, researchers followed more than 688,000 women, ages 50 to 74, who had been screened by traditional mammography, DR, or CR. Both DR and traditional screening mammograms detected about the same number of breast cancers—4.9 and 4.8 cancers, respectively, per 1,000 mammograms. However, CR detected just 3.4 cancers per 1,000 mammograms. The study's author says CR could result in 10 fewer cancers being detected for every 10,000 women screened. Other studies have differed on CR's effectiveness, so there is more to learn. In the meantime, continue mammography screening on the schedule you and your doctor have agreed upon.

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