Digital mammography superior to film mammography in some cases

January 29, 2008 — For some women, digital mammography may be a better screening option than film mammography, according to newly published results from a national study led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“This paper confirms that if you are under 50, pre- or perimenopausal, and have dense breasts, you should definitely be screened with digital rather than film,” said Dr. Etta Pisano, Kenan professor of radiology and biomedical engineering and vice dean for academic affairs and in the UNC School of Medicine.

The results, from the Digital Mammographic Imaging Screening Trial (DMIST),
appear in the February issue of Radiology.

Pisano is also director of UNC’s Biomedical Research Imaging Center and a member of UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

DMIST enrolled 49,528 women at 33 centers in the United States and Canada. The women underwent both digital and film mammography. Breast cancer status was determined for 42,760 women.

The researchers sought to retrospectively compare the diagnostic accuracy of digital mammography versus film mammography in subgroups defined by combinations of age, menopausal status and breast density, using either biopsy results or follow-up information.

The findings also showed a trend toward improved diagnostic accuracy of film over digital mammography for women over 65 with fatty breasts. However, this finding was not statistically significant, and further investigation is needed to determine why this was the case. For other groups evaluated, there was no significant difference.

To read the study, go to:

School of Medicine contact: Stephanie Crayton, (919) 966-2860 or

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