mammography, now available, improves detection of breast cancer
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.
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.
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
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."
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.
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.
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.
also has the state's only program in DNA testing for breast cancer