Frequently Asked Questions:
- What is digital mammography?
- What is DBT?
- How can women find an FDA-certified digital mammography facility?
- Do private insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid pay for digital mammography exams, such as DBT?
Full field digital mammography (FFDM, also known simply as "digital mammography") is a mammography system where the x-ray film used in screen-film mammography is replaced by solid-state detectors, similar to those found in digital cameras, which convert x-rays into electrical signals. The electrical signals are used to produce images of the breast that can be seen on a computer screen, or printed on special films to look like screen-film mammograms. Types of digital mammography include direct radiography (the most common type, which captures the image directly onto a flat-panel detector), computed radiography (which involves the use of a cassette that contains an imaging plate), or digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT).
Digital breast tomosynthesis is a relatively new technology. In DBT, the X-ray tube moves in an arc around the breast and takes multiple images from different angles. Similar to computed tomography (CT scan), these images are then reconstructed into parallel “slices” through the breast. This allows interpreting physicians to see through layers of overlapping tissue.
Digital mammography has been in use since 2001. Ninety-six percent of all certified mammography facilities in the US use digital units of some type. You can find a list of certified facilities, searchable by state or ZIP Code, at www.fda.gov/findmammography.
Do private insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid pay for digital mammography exams, such as DBT?
We recommend that you contact your insurance provider before the procedure to determine what procedures are covered by your insurance plan. The telephone number for questions about Medicare reimbursement is 1-800-MEDICARE. To find the number for MEDICAID, look in your local directory.