A study found that a digital mammogram is more accurate in finding breast cancer than a film mammogram for women who are younger than 50, have dense breasts, or who still have their periods (or have had a period within the past year). Film mammography was more accurate than digital mammography in finding breast cancer in women older than 65 with fatty breasts. These findings confirm early results from the same study reported in 2005.
During a film mammogram, a skilled technologist positions and compresses the breast between two plates. Then a highly specialized camera takes two pictures of each breast from two directions. This technique has been used successfully since the 1960s.
Digital mammography uses the same technique as film screen mammography, except that the image is recorded directly into a computer. The image can then be enlarged or highlighted. This new technology is more expensive than film mammography and not as widely available, though more centers in the United States now offer digital mammograms.
If you're younger than 50 and premenopausal, talk to your doctor about your breast density and whether digital mammograms would be the best choice for you.
If you're older than 65, postmenopausal and have less dense breasts, ask your doctor whether film mammograms might be the best choice for you, even if digital mammograms are available.
To learn more about mammography techniques, visit the breastcancer.org pages on Mammograms.