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Women age 40 years and older should begin annual mammograms to help detect breast cancer. And according to study data, newer, 3-dimensional mammograms may be better at picking up invasive tumors and avoiding false alarms than traditional breast cancer screening methods. But what is 3-D mammography? How is it different than traditional mammography?  3-D mammography (or breast tomosynthesis) is an FDA-approved advanced technology that takes multiple images of breast tissue to recreate a 3-D picture of the breast. With a standard mammogram, a woman gets two x-rays of each breast, from top to bottom and side-to-side, while the breast is compressed between two rigid plates. With 3-D imaging, the machine moves around the breast in an arc, taking multiple x-rays from different angles. One reason some tumors may not be detected on a standard mammogram is because compressing the breast causes overlapping of tissue, which can hide a cancer. The 3-D version enables radiologists to scroll through images of breast tissue a layer at a time, improving their ability to see questionable areas more clearly.

What Does The Research Show?

A large study of 3-D mammography in 13 U.S. hospitals involving over 170,000 women was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers found that 3-D mammography had a significantly higher breast cancer detection rate compared to standard digital mammograms. At the same time, there was a significant decrease in the number of women who had to return for more tests because of a suspicious mammogram finding.

What Are The Risks Associated With Having A 3-D Mammogram?

A 3-D mammogram releases the same amount of radiation as a traditional mammogram. It is of no greater risk to the patient.

What Can Women Expect?

Women notice little difference between 3-D mammography and traditional screenings. The tube taking the X-ray sweeps across the breast in an arch. It takes about four seconds to obtain an image, just a little bit longer than a digital mammogram.

Who Should Get A 3-D Mammogram And Why?

 Any woman who needs breast screening should consider 3-D mammography. Women with dense breast tissue in particular may benefit because it provides a clearer picture. Because it’s relatively new, 3-D mammography is not available at all hospitals and mammogram facilities. At Lakeside Women’s Hospital, we discuss the benefits of 3-D mammograms with women and allow them to decide if they want to do it. All of our screening mammography equipment has 3-D mammography capability. Because 3-D mammograms may not be covered by all insurance plans, contact your insurance provider before your appointment.