AMHERST and NORTHAMPTON — Area residents now have access to digital mammography exams at the Amherst Community Health Center and at Cooley Dickinson Hospital.
Technologists at both facilities are screening patients using digital mammography, a more advanced technology used in the detection of breast cancer. Screen-film mammography machines at both locations will be phased out.
Nancy King, director of Imaging Services, said the benefits of digital mammography include shorter exam times and better image quality.
“Within a matter of seconds following the exam, the images of the breast are displayed on the technologist’s monitor. We do not have to wait for the film to develop. The image quality is better, as the images are viewed on high-resolution monitors.”
Added King, “digital mammography is viewed as an improved technology simply because the images are digital. Like pictures taken with a digital camera, the images can be manipulated, the contrast can be adjusted to be made brighter, for example, and the technologist or radiologist can magnify areas of interest.
“Previously, studies captured on film did not allow this level of image manipulation. Being able to manipulate the images allows for the enhancement of the digital information being presented.”
King cited studies indicating that digital mammograms are better for women who have dense breast tissue, are under the age of 50, or are pre-menopausal.
The American Cancer Society recommends that all women have a baseline screening mammogram beginning at ages of 35 and 40, and an annual screening mammogram beginning at age 40. It also recommends that women with certain risk factors discuss an appropriate screening program with their physician.
Some of those risk factors include family or personal history of breast cancer, early menstrual onset or late onset of menopause, use of oral contraceptives, use of hormone-replacement therapy, and alcohol use (two or more drinks per day).