The Department of Radiology has been selected to take part in the first major study assessing the value of digital mammography vs. standard film mammography. Known as the American College of Radiology Imaging Network study, the project is funded with a $25 million grant from the National Cancer Institute.
A total of 49,500 women will be recruited for the study to decide if the new digital technique is equal to or better than the traditional method in breast cancer screening. Digital mammography uses computer-based electronic conductors to convert X-rays to light and light to digital symbols, which are ultimately displayed on computer monitors as pictures of the interior of the breast.
Hopkins is one of institutions in the United States and Canada that will take part in the study. Patients will be followed for up to 15 months after their original mammograms.
Laurie Fajardo, a professor of radiology and principal investigator for Hopkins' part of the study, says that many experts believe digital mammography is better than conventional mammography and this "massive" study should provide the definitive answer.
"Digital mammography has the potential to detect breast cancers earlier, especially in women with dense tissue for whom conventional mammography has limitations," Fajardo says. "Up till now, we were able to offer digital mammography only to patients with potential problems requiring breast biopsies. But this clinical trial allows us to offer the potential benefits of digital mammography to asymptomatic women coming for routine screening mammography."
To be eligible for this study, women should not have breast problems and should be willing to have both a digital and their annual routine screening mammogram. Women interested in taking part in the study should contact Barbara Levit at 410-955-3366.