The Johns Hopkins Medicine Department of Radiology has been selected to take part in the first major study assessing the value of digital mammography versus standard mammography. The study, called the American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN) study, is funded with a $25 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
A total of 49,500 women in the United States and Canada will be recruited for the study to compare digital mammography to standard film mammography and decide if the new digital technique is equal to or better than the traditional method in breast cancer screening.
Unlike film-based mammography, digital mammography uses computer-based electronic conductors to convert X-rays to light and light to digital symbols, ultimately displayed on computer monitors as pictures of the interior of the breast.
In addition to Hopkins, 18 other institutions in the United States and Canada will take part in the study. Patients will be followed for up to 15 months after their original mammograms.
Laurie Fajardo, M.D., professor of radiology at Hopkins, and principal investigator for Hopkins' part of the study, says 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," says Fajardo. "Up till now, we were only able to offer digital mammography 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."