Licking Memorial Hospital (LMH) has invested in new equipment for mammograms that could provide better cancer screening information.

Licking Memorial Hospital (LMH) has invested in new equipment for mammograms that could provide better cancer screening information.

"There are definite advantages to digital mammograms," said Dr. Joseph Fondriest, chair of the hospital's department of radiology. "This is much more sensitive to early cancer signs."

Fondriest said the hospital recently purchased full-field digital mammography equipment, which will replace the film screen mammograms that were being used. The new system is different in several ways. It uses a lower dose of radiation and reduces the number of images that have to be taken from each patient.

It also reduces the amount of time a patient has to wait for results because the digital images go straight into a computer and allow for quicker review.

"It can be done in less than one-half the time with good-quality images," Fondriest said.

Because it produces a digital image that is very clear, the digital system also is beneficial for younger women and those with denser breasts, which are prone to mask some early signs of cancer, he said.

"Studies have shown that full-field digital mammograms are at least as sensitive as normal mammograms," Fondriest said.

The hospital's system also includes automated computer-aided detection (CAD) diagnosis, which uses software to mark areas in the image that require further review.

"It gives us a second look at the breast," Fondriest said.

Information from the hospital states, "Armed with this additional information, the radiologist can then decide if these areas are significant or warrant further consideration."

The new digital system is two to four times the cost of the older system, but Fondriest said the new system is a benefit to the hospital and the patients. He said since the new system was installed two months ago, the hospital already has seen the benefits in early cancer diagnoses.

Insurance typically covers the cost of the digital procedure and use of the CAD, he said.

Fondriest said most people who receive mammograms will not notice a different in the procedure.

LMH currently reviews 12,000 mammograms annually. The hospital recommends women should begin having mammograms at age 40.

LMH offers screening mammograms, diagnostic mammograms, breast ultrasound, breast biopsies (stereotactic) and breast magnetic-resonance imaging (MRI). Digital mammography services are available from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. one Saturday each month.

For more information, call (740) 348-4710. To schedule an appointment, call (740) 348-4722.