March Spotlight – Radiology: 3D Mammography coming to MLH

By Emma Simpson, MD, Interim Chair, Department of Radiology


While digital mammography was a huge diagnostic improvement over film/screen mammography, it is still limited by the fact that it is a 2 dimensional image of 3 dimensional structure.  The  overlapping of the normal  fibroglandular tissue of the breast  can obscure a significant abnormality, as well as create the appearance of an abnormality where none exists . A newer technology called digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) or  3D mammography is an advance that helps to combat this limitation by allowing radiologists to assess breast tissue three dimensionally. 

The ability of 3D mammography to see through the superimposition of  tissue  results in a  decrease in the  rate of recall of patients for additional imaging by about 30%.  (Read the article.) This decrease is greatest in women younger than 50 years of age and those with dense breasts.   In addition, this study demonstrated an improvement in cancer detection of 9.5%.  Another study demonstrated an increase in the cancer detection rate of about 33%. (Read the article.)

MLH has purchased 3D Mammography technology and is currently doing the infrastructure work to have it available at the 4 MLH breast centers by the summer of 2014.  While other facilities in the area are charging the patient an out of pocket fee of up to $75 for the 3 D mammogram,  MLH will provide the service without this additional upcharge as part of our commitment to the patients we serve.

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