Middle Aged Woman Getting Mammogram --- Image by � Sean Justice/Corbis Fuse

Technology gives mammograms boost

Published Oct 5, 2017 at 12:00pm

Mammography remains one of the most popular and well-known diagnostic tools for breast cancer.

It is estimated that 48 million mammograms are performed each year in the United States and many others are conducted all around the world under the recommended guidance of doctors and cancer experts.

Mammography can be traced back more than 100 years to 1913, when German surgeon Albert Salomon attempted to visualize cancer of the breast through radiography. By the 1930s, the concept of mammography was gaining traction in the United States. Stafford L. Warren, an American physician and radiologist, began his own work on mammography, developing techniques of producing stereoscopic images of the breast with X-rays. He also championed the importance of comparing both breast images side-by-side.

Raul Leborgne, a radiologist from Uruguay, conducted his own work on mammography and, in 1949, introduced the compression technique, which remains in use today. By compressing the breast, it is possible to get better imaging through the breast and use a lower dose of radiation. Also, compression helps spread the structures of the breast apart to make it easier to see the individual internal components. Compression helps to pull the breast away from the chest wall and also to immobilize the breast for imaging.

Advancements in mammogram technology continued to improve through the 1950s and 1960s. Texas radiologist Robert Egan introduced a new technique with a fine-grain intensifying screen and improved film to produce clearer images. In 1969, the first modern-day film mammogram was invented and put into widespread use. The mammogram process was fine-tuned in 1972 when a high-definition intensifying screen produced sharper images and new film offered rapid processing and shorter exposure to radiation. By 1976, the American Cancer Society began recommending mammography as a screening tool. 

Through the years, mammography became a great help to women looking to arm themselves against breast cancer.

Thanks to improvements in early detection and treatment, breast cancer deaths are down from their peak and survival rates continue to climb.