Feb. 16, 2001
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U.Va. Law School campaign far surpasses original goal -- and all expectations
Digital mammography, now available, improves detection of breast cancer
International adoption clinic opens
Hot Links -- Web site about colds

Cell biology receives $1 million grant

Prey lose fear in absence of predators
Med School sets lottery for free education
Symposium examines technology, media
Center helps assess threats to critical infrastructures
Biological weapons could target ethnic groups
Faculty Senate awards student research projects
Dave Matthews Band coming to U.Va.
Notable -- awards and achievements of faculty and staff
In Memoriam
Valentin Martchev to perform bassoon recital
After Hours -- Brian Del Vecchio

Digital mammography, now available, improves detection of breast cancer

By Catherine Seigerman

Quicker and more reliable mammograms are now available to women in central and western Virginia. The U.Va. Health System is the first hospital in the region to install the computerized mammography system, which produces an image in 10 seconds that is more detailed than X-ray film mammography.

Digital mammography was only recently approved by the FDA for clinical use. U.Va. participated in multi-center clinical studies of the digital technology over the past several years.

"The digital test provides a more detailed and clearer image, especially benefitting women with dense breast tissue who are at higher risk for breast cancer," said Dr. Jennifer A. Harvey, head of the U.Va. Division of Breast Imaging and assistant professor of radiology. "Because the digital system is more accurate, women will be far less likely to be called for a repeated mammogram," she added.

Approximately 10 percent of all women have dense breast tissue, Harvey said, making the traditional film mammography less sensitive. Breast density increases in women who use hormone replacement therapy.

The computer also scans nearer the skin line and allows enhancement of details that previously could be only approximated with a magnifying glass when X-ray film was used. The image can immediately be sent electronically to the radiologist for reading. Primary care doctors can also receive the image quickly via computer, and the files are stored easily.

"The clinical study was supposed to determine whether digital mammography was as good as film mammography," said Harvey. "The study found that it was actually much better."

The stage at which breast cancer is detected determines a woman's survival. With one in eight American women expected to develop breast cancer in her lifetime, this improved technology can potentially save many lives. Harvey adds that monthly self-examinations remain equally as important as getting a yearly mammogram.

Approximately 40,000 women die of breast cancer every year in the United States. This number has declined since 1995, Harvey said, most likely because of increased use of mammograms for early detection.

Digital mammograms will cost the same as film mammograms at U.Va., and are currently covered by Medicare. Apart from U.Va., Williamsburg has the only other digital mammography facility in the state.

U.Va. also has the state's only program in DNA testing for breast cancer genes.


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