Long before a lump may be felt, a mammogram can be the first line of defense against breast cancer. In late August 2008, St. Mary’s Hospital installed digital mammography, bringing the most advanced technology in the early detection of a disease that strikes one in eight women.
For patients, it will feel the same as a conventional mammogram – the difference is in the computer software.  Digital mammography takes an electronic image of the breast and stores it in a computer, allowing the recorded data to be enhanced, magnified or manipulated so radiologists can more easily see subtle variations between normal and abnormal areas. This differs from conventional mammography, which uses film to capture and display the image. 

With digital mammography, the hospital will provide patients with the highest quality of care in the prevention and early detection of breast cancer.  Found at its earliest, most treatable stages, the five-year survival rate is better than 90 percent. That’s why early detection is so important.
St. Mary’s Hospital expects this technology to make a lifesaving difference. Not only is it more accurate and takes less time to complete, but one of the best advantages of digital mammography is that women are exposed to less radiation.
Additionally, the hospital has incorporated digital computer-aided detection (CAD).  Digital CAD acts as “computerized second look” and highlights characteristics commonly associated with breast cancer.  Markers are placed on the images, which aid radiologists in detecting early breast cancer. CAD is, in essence, a second set of eyes to support and enhance the radiologist’s judgment.
St. Mary’s Hospital has offered mammography services since 1974, using several different image-capturing techniques, according to Vice President Joan Gelrud. The hospital received accreditation for mammography in the mid-1990s and has retained its accreditation since that time.
In December 2008, the hospital’s Imaging Department received accreditation for its new digital mammography system. A special thanks to the mammography staff, led by Mary Grisez, lead mammography technologist, under the direction of Sheila Harrison, director of Imaging, and Dr. Bolivia Davis, chief of radiology.
Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer in women and the leading cause of cancer death in women between the ages of 40 and 59.  Women at increased risk due to family history, genetic tendency or past breast cancer should talk with their doctors about the benefits and limitations of starting mammography screening earlier.
To learn more, or to make a mammogram appointment, please call St. Mary’s Hospital’s Imaging Department at (301) 475-6106.