Digital Mammography Saves Lives
Improves the Early Detection of Breast Cancer

When Sherry DelGrosso turned 40 in February, she followed her doctor’s advice and scheduled a routine mammogram. Although she’d had a scare with a benign, atypical growth nine years earlier, she was considered a low-risk patient with no family history of breast cancer and had little reason for concern.

But her digital mammogram revealed a tiny growth in her dense breast tissue that she was unable to find through self-examination. Her April 9 diagnosis, which came on her husband’s birthday, confirmed she had infiltrating ductal carcinoma. As the mother of a four-year-old daughter, she decided to attack the cancer aggressively by undergoing a bilateral mastectomy at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC in May.

Ms.DelGrosso says the digital mammogram enabled doctors to detect her cancer early so she could begin treatment. “This technology absolutely saved my life. It caught my cancer early before it could spread or metastasize. It means so much to me to know I will be here for my beautiful daughter,” she says.

Digital mammogram image.Catching Cancer Earlier

Kandace McGuire, MD, assistant professor of surgery at Magee, says the cutting-edge digital mammography available to doctors at UPMC is helping them catch cancer in its very early stages, which means a better chance of survival for breast cancer patients.

“Digital mammography catches cancer earlier. It is saving lives,” says Dr. McGuire, the breast surgical oncologist who performed Ms.DelGrosso’s mastectomy.

Margarita Zuley, MD, director of breast imaging at Magee, says the new technology is better at detecting cancer in women under 50 and women with dense breast tissue. Research also indicates digital mammography is better able to detect Stage 0 breast cancer.

Digital mammography is a “wonderful first” in a promising new era of technology, says Dr. Zuley. “It’s a very exciting time to be in breast imaging. We have so many new tools for diagnosis.”

“The earlier we detect breast cancer, the lower the stage and the greater the survival rate. That means less need for radical surgeries, lymph node dissection, and systemic chemotherapy. Reducing treatment with earlier detection helps the patient.”

Newer and Better Technology Provides a Closer Look

Digital mammography also provides newer and better technology for capturing the image and transferring it to a computer. While digital mammography uses x-rays — the same technology used in traditional mammograms — the images are collected on a digital detector and stored on a computer rather than collected and stored on film. Viewing the images on a computer gives doctors a closer look at the structures in the breast, helping them to diagnose potentially life-threatening breast tumors.

Another benefit of digital mammography is that it can offer women instant feedback. Once the mammogram is complete, the image is available for doctors and radiologists to view immediately and in the same room.

Digital mammography is currently offered at UPMC Passavant and most other UPMC locations. Talk to your physician to determine if a digital mammogram would be preferable based on such factors as age and family history. Above all, never put off having a regular mammogram.

For more information about digital mammography or any of UPMC’s imaging services, call 1-800-533-UPMC, option 1.

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