According to the American Cancer Society 2007 Global Facts and Figures, breast cancer is the first or second most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in many of the largest medical markets. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 270,000 new cases are expected in the United States this year. Additionally, breast cancer is among the most common types of cancer in Northern and Western Europe, Australia, and Southern and Western Asia. In many developing Asian and African markets, breast cancer rates are still rising. The American Cancer Society recommends women age 40 and old to have a screening mammogram every year and should continue as long as they are in good health.
One of the earliest signs of breast cancer is the appearance of calcium particles (microcalcification) around the cancerous tissue. Digital x-ray has been used to screen for calcification for more than five years. Recently, digital mammography has improved to the point where it can be used for diagnosis. The latest figures available reflect over 20% digital mammography adoption in the United States.
In recent years, the focus has been on the early detection of breast cancer through regular screening of susceptible women. Early detection of breast cancer increases five year survival rates from 28% to 98% due to the ability to remove or kill the cancer with relatively mild surgery or focused treatment before it has spread into the rest of the body. Microcalcification is one of the best early signs of breast cancer, detecting abnormalities below 200 µm in size, which is the beginning stage of the cancer.