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Which Mammography Works Best?

National study will compare different types of screening

THURSDAY, Oct. 10, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Thousands of women are needed for a national study comparing the effectiveness of digital mammography to standard mammography in detecting breast cancer.

The Digital Mammographic Imaging Screening Trial (DMIST) is being coordinated by the National Cancer Institute and the American College of Radiology. About 49,500 women are expected to take part in the study.

One of the study centers is the Jonsson Cancer Center at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), which is working to recruit 2,475 women for its part of the study.

"This study is the next step in the digital revolution," says breast imaging expert Dr. Lawrence Bassett, principal investigator for the UCLA arm of the study and director of the Iris Cantor Breast Imaging Center at UCLA.

"Digital mammography holds promise to improve earlier detection of breast cancer, but a large study is necessary to see whether digital mammography really is better than, or as effective as, standard mammography," Bassett says.

"Despite some limitations, mammography remains the most effective way to detect breast cancer. It is the only detection method that has been studied in large trials and proven to reduce deaths from breast cancer. So working to improve mammographic images is critical to improving accuracy in breast cancer detection," he says.

Digital mammography uses computers and specially designed detectors to provide a digital image of the breast. This image can be displayed and enlarged, magnified, lightened or darkened on high-resolution monitors. The digital images can also be printed on X-ray film.

"One possible advantage of digital mammography is that it may be more effective in detecting cancers in women with dense breasts because the digital mammogram images have a wider contrast range than images on standard mammograms," Bassett says.

"With standard mammography, radiologists have a more limited ability to spot abnormalities in dense breast tissue or recognize tumors with subtle or faint borders," he says.

For more information about enrolling in the UCLA DMIST study, phone the Jonsson Cancer Center clinical trials hotline toll-free at 1-888-798-0719. For information about study sites across the United States, go to the DMIST Web site.

More information

To find out more about breast cancer detection, go to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

SOURCE: University of California, Los Angeles, news release, October 2002
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