A Clearer View

You’ve probably seen x-rays at your doctor’s office. To the untrained eye, the image can look pretty vague and murky. Sometimes they’re not much better for doctors. Now, doctors are studying a new technology that makes x-ray images of breasts clearer. They hope to know how much it improves detection of breast cancer.

High contrast makes photographs stand out and television pictures clearer. Now, using digital mammograms, doctors are able to turn up the contrast on images of potential cancers.

Dr. Pisano, a radiologist says, “Sometimes when you take the first shot, something that you want to see isn’t as bright or as obvious as you’d like it to be. So you can manipulate the contrast in the image to bring out the information.”

Dr. Pisano is conducting a study in which doctors will look at conventional x-rays like the one on the left and then a digital image like the one on the right. They’ll compare results to see if digital images make their diagnosis more precise.

“Our expectation is that eventually we will be able to figure out with the first mammogram whether someone has a lesion or not,” says Dr. Pisano.

That would end the uncertainty Kaye is going through. Her regular mammogram looked suspicious. So her doctor asked for another look with a digital mammogram.

Kaye says, “It’s always concerning. Especially because they called me later the same day. I asked, ‘What did you find?'”

The mammogram is taken the same way, but the image is available instantly. Also, it can be sent to virtually any computer — no more lost x-ray films.

Dr. Pisano adds, “She’ll even be able to keep her images at home if she wants, on her home PC if she wants.”

If proven more accurate, digital mammograms could mean the difference of black and white in the world of mammography. A digital mammogram may cost more than a conventional one since the equipment is more expensive. Considering it may save the cost of unnecessary biopsies, it could save money in some cases. The study to determine accuracy will be completed by fall of 1999.

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