Mammograms continue to be the most effective way to detect breast cancer early and increase a woman’s chances of survival. Within the past year, they’ve become even better.
Digital breast tomosynthesis, also referred to as 3D mammography, provides a clearer, more accurate view of the breast and allows doctors to more effectively pinpoint the size, shape, and location of any breast abnormalities.
“Imagine a loaf of bread. Instead of seeing the entire loaf in one picture, like you would with a regular mammogram, you’re slicing it down so you get a more detailed picture,” explains Linna Li, MD, radiation oncologist at Bryn Mawr Hospital.
Below, Dr. Li answers some of the most common questions about 3D mammography, and explores how it works to provide a better picture of your breast health.
So…how does it work?
3D mammography takes three-dimensional images of the breast using a technology similar to CT scans, and combines the images to form a full picture of the breast. You don’t need to make a separate appointment for a 3D mammogram—it can be performed using the same technology that is used to perform a conventional 2D mammogram.
What are the benefits of 3D mammography?
3D mammography’s benefits include:
- Detecting 40 percent more invasive cancer missed with conventional mammography
- Reducing the need for follow-up imaging by 40 percent
- Greater accuracy in pinpointing the size, shape, and location of breast abnormalities
- Greater likelihood of detecting multiple breast tumors, which can occur in15 percent of patients
“Not only will a more comprehensive picture lead to better detection, it can also reduce the number of false alarms, when women are called back in for additional mammograms because radiologists aren’t certain whether or not a tumor is present,” explains Dr. Li.
Do I need to be worried about radiation exposure during 3D mammograms?
There is radiation exposure during conventional and 3D mammograms, but your exposure is nothing to be worried about. Very low x-ray energy is used during the exam, about the same amount that is used during your conventional mammogram done on film. If you do have concerns about radiation exposure, talk to your physician.
Who is eligible for a 3D mammogram?
Although 3D mammography has been recommended for all women, some groups benefit more from it than others. Women between the ages of 40 and 50, women with dense breasts, and women who have a personal or family history of breast cancer are the best candidates for a more precise mammogram. Even if you’re not in one of these groups, you can still take advantage of 3D mammography. The screening is approved for all women who would be undergoing a standard mammogram.
Why is there a need for 3D mammograms?
With conventional mammography, the radiologist views your breast tissues in a flat image. Sometimes, this breast tissue can overlap and result in hiding a breast cancer from view. 3D images make it possible for a radiologist to gain a better understanding of your breast tissue during your screening.
“This type of detection can save a lot of lives,” says Dr. Li.
3D mammography is offered at all four Main Line Health Comprehensive Breast Centers at no additional cost. To learn more, or to schedule your mammogram, call 484-580-1800 or visit our website.
Dr. Li will be joined by breast surgeon W. Bradford Carter, MD and medical oncologist Amy Curran, MD for a breast health seminar ‘Latest Advances in Breast Health’ on Thursday, October 22 from 6:00-8:00 PM, where the group will discuss the latest advancements in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. Visit our website to register.