July 15, 2008

Women's Imaging Center brings in new digital mammography machines

Women's Imaging Center in Plattsburgh gets digital units

PLATTSBURGH -- New digital mammography equipment at the Women's Imaging Center in Plattsburgh is improving the quality of screening for certain women.

Traditional film-screen mammography that has been used for the past several decades has aided doctors in detecting early breast cancer and has helped to dramatically reduce the death rates associated with the disease.

However, those exams could not always detect early cancers, particularly in younger women and those with dense breast tissue.

"Fatty breast tissue is typically easier to penetrate (with mammography x-rays)," said Fay Ashline, manager of the Women's Imaging Center. "The new full-field digital mammography is the next step toward finding more early-stage cancers in women with dense breast tissue."


Digital mammography uses an electronic x-ray detector similar to those found in digital cameras. The detector converts x-ray photons to light, passing it through a fiber-optic cable to a device that converts light to a digitized signal for display on a computer monitor.

"This digital system seems to work better with women who are younger or have denser breasts," said Dr. David Hammack of Lake Champlain Radiology Associates. "It's an advancement that will help us better serve this population of women in need."

With digital imagery, radiologists can alter the orientation, magnification, brightness and contrast as desired to interpret films.

Their workstation includes high-resolution monitors, required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to retrieve information and to review a patient's previous studies in relation to updated images.

"The radiologist can make several copies of previous mammograms, adding to the efficiency for the radiologist to review previous studies in electronic format," Ashline said.

The center also has new digitizing equipment that enables staff to transfer the old hard-copy x-ray photos to electronic images. As patients come into the center for appointments, staff has been switching their old x-rays to the new digitized format.

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