A landmark trial has found mammograms conducted with new digital technology are far more effective in detecting breast cancer among women under 50 than those conducted with standard film technology.
The study of almost 50,000 women in the U.S. found that digital mammography picked up between 15 and 28 percent more breast cancers in women younger than 50, those who had not yet gone through menopause and those with dense breasts.
Women in these groups are more likely to have fast-growing, aggressive tumours for which early detection and treatment are crucial. And these young women's breast scans are hard to read, according to Xinhua.
"These are cancers that kill women and (many) were missed on film," said Dr Etta Pisano of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who led the study.
"It is a very welcome study. The technology has been improving rapidly over the last few years to the point where it has clear advantages," Professor Bishop said.
Digital and film mammograms both require the use of X-rays to produce an image.
But digital mammography allows doctors to view the mammogram on a computer and to change the contrast on screen to view suspicious areas. With conventional mammograms, suspicious spots are studied with a magnifying glass.
"With film, what you see is what you get and you can't manipulate the data to try to see it a little better," said Dr. Pisano.
For those who had gone through menopause film mammography worked just as well as digital, doctors said.
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