Digital Screening Beats Standard Method at Detecting Cancer in Dense Breast Tissue, Study Shows
University of Cincinnati radiologists, who recently screened 993 local women during a national evaluation of digital mammography, report that digital screening surpasses standard film mammography in certain patient groups.
Funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and conducted by the American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN), the Digital Mammographic Imaging Screening Trial (DMIST) found that digital mammography detected significantly more cancers—28 percent—than screen film mammography in women aged 50 or younger, women who were pre- or perimenopausal and women with dense breasts.
Unlike standard film screen mammography, digital mammography makes an electronic image of the breast, which can be enhanced on a computer for further, more precise evaluation.
One of the largest screening trials ever performed, the DMIST showed no difference between digital and film mammography in detecting breast cancer in the general population of women.
UC was one of 33 screening sites across the United States and Canada. Results were reported in a special online publication of the New England Journal of Medicine in September.
“Digital mammography detects cancers better in women with dense breast tissue, and this may translate to more lives saved through early detection,” said Mary Mahoney, MD, director of breast imaging at the UC Cancer Center/Barrett Center and lead investigator for Cincinnati’s portion of the screening trial. “This study showed that digital mammography effectively detects difficult-to-diagnose cancers and has beneficial—even critical—applications in patient care.”
The DMIST study enrolled 49,528 women—all with no signs of breast cancer. Participants were given both digital and film mammograms, which were interpreted independently by two radiologists. The Center for Statistical Sciences at Brown Medical School developed the study’s statistical design and analyzed the results.
“Breast cancer cannot be prevented, so early detection is absolutely essential. Women age 40 or older should have annual mammograms and regularly do self-exams,” said Dr. Mahoney.
According to the NCI, breast cancer is the most common non-skin cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in women in the United States. An estimated 211,240 women will be diagnosed with the disease, and 40,410 will die of it in 2005.
The UC Cancer Center/Barrett Center has a team of oncologists, radiologists and surgeons who offer comprehensive patient care—including ultrasound, MRI-guided biopsies, mammograms, genetic counseling and the latest chemotherapy and radiation treatments.