Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Digital mammograms – a life-saving technology

According to the National Cancer Institute, mammograms are the best breast cancer detection tool available, and women ages 40 and older should have a mammogram at least every two years. (Some patients with higher risk factors may need annual mammograms.)

Until recently, all mammogram images were taken on film. But for some women, newer technology is needed. Digital mammograms are also X-rays, but they are processed, viewed and stored electronically, on a computer.

Beginning in February, Fauquier Health will offer digital instead of film-based mammograms. The new technology was expensive -- $500,000 for each of two units – but Fauquier Health CEO and President Rodger Baker said, “It was important to us to offer the best tools possible for detecting breast cancer. This technology will save lives.”

Fauquier Health’s fundraising arm, the Fauquier Health Foundation, raised more than $96,000 for the system; $50,000 of that came from the Cherry Blossom Breast Cancer Fund at the Northern Piedmont Community Foundation.

Pamela M. Phillips, M.D., of Virginia Radiology Associates, said, “The radiologists are very excited to have digital mammography available to our patients at Fauquier Hospital. Digital mammography has been shown to surpass film-based mammography in detection of cancer in three kinds of women – women with dense breast tissue, premenopausal and perimenopausal women, and women under age 50.”

Advantages of digital mammograms:

  • On a film mammogram, both glandular tissue and cancerous growths appear similarly light-colored, making it difficult to detect abnormalities. Digital mammograms can be adjusted for greater contrast than traditional film, enabling radiologists to interpret images of dense tissue more accurately.

  • Digital processing time is less than a minute, so women wait for less time in the mammography room while the technologist ensures that high-quality images were taken.

  • Radiologists can easily retrieve archived digital images for comparison to new images. And digital images can also be electronically transmitted to specialists in other offices for consultations.

Fauquier Health now offers digital mammography
Obtain an order from your doctor and call (540) 316-5800 to make an appointment.
Women who turn age 40 in 2009 receive a free mammogram at Fauquier Health.

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