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A Look at Digital Mammography Systems

Designed to produce radiographic images of the breast, mammography x-ray systems are primarily used for breast cancer screening, staging and grading, and pinpointing specific diagnoses in patients displaying symptoms. Most mammographs show magnified views of the breast, as well as spot images. Special stereotactic attachments facilitate performing stereotactic biopsy procedures. Digital mammography images can be achieved either by a full-field digital detector, or by using CR cassettes and a CR reader. Also, a small-sized digital detector can be integrated into an analogue mammography for image spotting and for of guiding stereotactic biopsies.

The major components of a mammography system are:
  • The pedestal support for the tube, the breast platform and the cassette holder or detector
  • The X-ray tube assembly, including the collimator and the filters to reduce low energy radiation
  • The breast-holding platform and compression paddle
  • The detector or cassette holder
There are several benefits of using digital radiography:
  • More efficient storage of and access to images
  • Fewer retakes
  • Better visualization of dense breasts
  • Availability of image post-processing and image manipulation

Clinical studies have been reported and generally suggest that digital mammography provides either equal or better imaging performance than film or screen imaging. Digital mammography systems usually have a deeper dynamic range. It is important to note that pixel size is not a good indicator of spatial resolution, as the noise and blurring effects in the detector system can have a significant effect on resolution. In addition, different types of detector technologies have different noise and blurring characteristic.

The user interface should enable full visualization of image data. Standard imaging processing typically includes:

  • Magnification, zoom and roam functionalities
  • Window and leveling (contrast and brightness)
  • Image flip and rotation
  • Edge enhancement and noise reduction
  • Black/white inversion

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