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Digital Mammography Technology Installed at Magee-Womens Hospital of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

PITTSBURGH, September 13, 2000Magee-Womens Hospital of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center today announced the first clinical installation of digital mammography technology in western Pennsylvania, offering for the first time an unparalleled resource that promises to revolutionize the way doctors across the country detect breast cancer.

"As a recognized national leader in women's health care, we are extremely pleased to introduce this technology to the community at large and to incorporate digital mammography in federally funded, innovative research to reduce disability and death from breast cancer," said Irma Goertzen, president and CEO, Magee-Womens Hospital of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

"We expect our initiatives to extend to all women at risk of developing breast cancer, as well as to the 182,000 women nationwide who will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year."

"The introduction of digital mammography is a landmark in breast imaging -- a revolution that will provide us with more information and improved diagnostic evaluations," stated Jules Sumkin, D.O., professor and interim chair of radiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and chief of radiology, Magee-Womens Hospital.

"This technology is remarkable because radiologists can view and manipulate digital mammograms on a computer screen to improve visualization of structures in breast tissue," said Frederic Pla, Ph.D., manager of global X-ray research and advanced development programs at GE Medical Systems.

Magee-Womens Hospital is among the first in the nation to install a clinical digital mammography system. Manufactured by GE Medical Systems, the Senographe 2000D® is the only FDA-approved digital mammography device in use. General Electric has spent more than 13 years and $150 million in developing this new technology, which has been used in clinical research trials at a select number of prestigious medical institutions across the country.

During digital mammography, X-rays are sent through the breast to a special plate (a flat-panel silicon detector) that converts them into digital data. The data are sent to an image processor, and the resulting images can be modified onscreen. This process differs from standard X-ray (film-screen) mammography, during which X-rays penetrate breast tissue and strike a plate that is developed like camera film.

Digital mammography offers a number of practical advantages. During digital mammography, radiology technologists can acquire and view images of the breast in less than a minute as the patient remains in the mammography room. If a digital image is unacceptable, the patient can be repositioned immediately for a new image rather than sent home and possibly called back for a repeat mammogram, as would be the case in standard X-ray mammography. Thus, digital mammography is quick and has the potential to reduce patient anxiety and inconvenience. Moreover, digital mammograms are easily archived and electronically transferable, making them ideal for teaching purposes and for evaluation during long-distance telemedicine consultations.

Although standard X-ray is an effective tool, digital mammograms offer potential clinical benefits over this existing technology. They allow for better visibility of the breast tissue, particularly at the skin line. Radiologists can alter the brightness, contrast and size of digital images, unlike how standard X-ray mammograms are viewed. Because digital breast images are more informative, they have the potential to allow better patient diagnosis. Future studies will determine whether, in fact, digital mammography is better than standard film-screens for some women -- that is, whether digital mammography is more sensitive (can detect abnormalities) and more specific (can help differentiate benign from malignant tumors) than standard X-ray mammograms. For certain women, digital mammography promises to aid physicians in discerning whether breast biopsy is necessary.

Breasts specialists at Magee-Womens Hospital note that, to date, digital mammography is considered "comparable" in clinical performance to standard X-ray mammography. They caution that large-scale clinical studies comparing the two technologies are needed to determine which women could benefit from this technology. At Magee, some populations of women will have digital mammograms in addition to standard film X-rays, results of which will be compared. These include selected asymptomatic women with dense breast tissue in which cancers are often difficult to detect using standard methods. Additionally, the clinical researchers will collaborate with GE Medical Systems in the development of computer-aided detection software programs to assist in providing better patient evaluations.

Digital mammography technology is part of Magee’s ongoing commitment to providing the best, state-of-the art services through its comprehensive care of women with breast disease at the Breast Program of Magee-Womens Hospital and the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. For more information, call 412-647-4747.

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