Mammograms continue to be the most effective way to detect breast cancer early and increase a woman’s chances of survival. Within recent years, they’ve become even better.
Digital breast tomosynthesis, also referred to as ‘tomo’ or 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.
“Digital 3D mammography takes multiple images through the entire breast, creating a three-dimensional view,” explains Alicia Picard, MD, radiologist at Bryn Mawr Hospital, part of Main Line Health. “This allows us to get a clearer and more detailed picture than we would with a traditional mammogram.”
Dr. Picard 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?
The benefits of 3D mammography—or tomo—include:
- Detecting up to 40 percent more invasive cancers than conventional mammography
- Reducing the need for follow-up imaging by up to 40 percent
- Pinpointing with higher accuracy the size, shape and location of breast abnormalities
- Detecting multiple breast tumors with greater precision
“3D mammography also reduces 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. For women, this means less unnecessary stress and anxiety,” says Dr. Picard.
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. The amount is similar to a 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 recommended 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 state-of-the-art 3D detection can save a lot of lives,” says Dr. Picard.
3D mammography is offered at nine convenient health center and hospital locations across Main Line Health. We promise to get you in for an appointment within 24 hours and get you out in less than an hour. We’ll return your results to you the very next business day—or sooner. To make it even more convenient for you to get this important screening, weekend and evening hours are available.
Article updated 5/31/2017