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funded by NSF has the potential to help improve the lives of women suspected
of having breast cancer.
The move from film-based mammography to digital mammography is on the
advantage of digital mammography is its ability to locate cancerous signs
using lower doses of radiation.
Researchers at the National Cancer Institute conclude digital mammography
holds great promise for the detection and diagnosis of breast cancers.
The digital advantage
Researchers have developed a method for comparing the quality and precision
of traditional mammograms to the new digital counterparts. These researchers
believe there is mounting evidence that digital mammography will be superior
to analog film methods.
A primary goal of NSF-funded research has been to develop standards
for evaluating the reliability of digital images. These new standards
are expected to help facilitate the detection of small breast cancers
and microcalcifications, or benign calcium deposits, in breast tissue.
mammography is believed to control the quality of reading a mammogram
in real time and thus help speed the reading and analysis of mammograms
from a few days to the same day the procedure is conducted.
Help from astronomy
Additionally, astronomers share the same challenge as radiologists in
trying to read mammograms: they must pinpoint critical spots against a
Radiologists search images for microcalcifications as signs of breast
cancer, images that look very much like an image in the sky that astronomers
seek to discern. This unique synergy between astronomers and cancer researchers
has generated new software that allows radiologists greater ability to
scrutinize mammograms for telltale signs of breast cancer.
This particular link between astronomy and radiology resulted from an
NSF grant that allowed astronomers and radiologists to collaborate on
using astronomical computer software (originally created to look at highly
crowded regions of the sky where millions of stars appeared on a single
image) to scan digitized mammograms.
this software is applied to the examination of mammograms, it essentially
removes much of the background clutter in the image and makes it relatively
simple to detect microcalcifications.
This technique has been able to locate microcalcifications, which may
be a sign of cancer.
The software may eventually be tested in other medical areas, such as
searching images from cancer biopsies for distinctive patterns made by
different kinds of cancer cells.