What Is a Digital Mammogram?

A mammogram is an imaging test of the breast. It’s done to look for breast cancer. It uses low-dose X-rays to create pictures of the breast tissue. X-ray film is used to create the pictures.

But a digital mammogram is different. It uses electronics to convert X-rays into pictures of the breast on a computer. It’s also called a full-field digital mammogram (FFDM).

Why is a digital mammogram used?

In people who are not in menopause, a digital mammogram works better at finding breast cancer than a mammogram done with X-ray film. People in this age group tend to have dense breast tissue. This tissue can be inspected better with the digital method.

But do not skip your cancer screening if a digital mammogram is not available. A regular mammogram also helps find breast cancer. Finding cancer early with either method is important.

Types of digital mammograms

There are 3 main types:

  • Direct radiography. This is the most common type. It captures the image directly onto a flat-panel detector.

  • Computed radiography. This uses a cassette that has an imaging plate.

  • Digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT). This is also called a 3-dimensional (3-D) mammogram. Multiple pictures of the breast are captured from different angles. They are made into a 3-D image.

Benefits of a digital mammogram

The digital images have some benefits over film pictures. Unlike film pictures, digital images:

  • Can be stored and transferred electronically

  • Are less likely to get lost

  • Can be corrected for underexposure or overexposure. This may prevent the need for another mammogram.

  • Let radiologists use software to help interpret or read them

  • Allow a better exam of all areas of the breast, no matter how dense the tissue is

  • Have a lower average radiation dose

Having a digital mammogram

The process of getting a digital mammogram is just like a regular mammogram. In fact, the only way you may know what you have is to ask. Talk with the technologist who does your mammogram.

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: Shaziya Allarakha MD
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2024
© 2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.