Formally known as Tomosynthesis, 3D Mammography is the latest breast cancer detection tool. It is similar to standard “2D” mammography but multiple 2D images are taken at different angles. Like traditional mammography, 3D mammography uses low dose X-rays to produce images of breast tissue in order to detect lumps, tumors or other abnormalities. 3D mammography is capable of producing more detailed images of breast tissue.
3D captures multiple slices of the breast, all at different angles. The images are brought together to create a crystal clear 3D reconstruction of the breast. The radiologist is then able to review reconstruction, one sliced at a time, almost like turning pages in a book. This makes it easier for doctors to see if there’s anything to be concerned about.
Why is 3D Mammography important?
In standard 2D mammography, the structures of the breast are all imaged from the same angle so masses and abnormalities may be hidden by normal tissues. This is particularly problematic in women with dense breast tissue. In addition, normal structures can be superimposed on each other and appear to represent an abnormality when none is present. With 3D mammography, the images that are taken at multiple different angles are processed by a sophisticated computer system that creates one 2D image for every millimeter of breast tissue. That means that although we only take 9 images we typically are able to get 60 individual “slices” through the breast tissue which can significantly decrease the problems with overlapping tissues.
Does this test require compression?
3D Mammography is done on the same machine that does 2D mammography. It is a series of low dose mammograms done at varying angles. So, unfortunately, it still requires compression of the breast.
Are there any risks associated with this test; specifically is there more radiation used?
Each of the 9 images taken during the exam are very low in radiation (actually designed to be 1/9th of the dose of the typical image). The total dose for a 3D image is the same as the dose would be if a 2D image was taken. Even if the 2D and 3D images were both taken the total dose would be less than the amount considered safe by the FDA.
Is this test still experimental or is there scientific evidence supporting it?
Tomosynthesis was first proposed soon after the advent of digital mammography in the year 2000. Extensive research has been done in the nearly 15 years since it was conceived. In 2011, the first US FDA approved system became available. Research on many patients at many locations has consistently shown that the use of this tool decreases the number of false alarms (false positive tests) by up to 50% and more recent data is showing a significant increase in breast cancer detection (between 30 and 50%). The system in use at Carolina Breast Imaging Specialists was approved in September 2014. This latest technology is able to create even better images at a lower radiation dose than the previously available units.
Who should receive 3D Mammography?
The scientific data is clear that this test should replace current screening mammography. The maximum benefit is to those women with dense breast tissue but it appears that all patients may benefit from its use.
Is 3D mammography covered by insurance?
3D mammography is now covered by almost all insurance carriers including Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Blue Cross (North Carolina and many other out of state affiliates), Cigna, Medcost, Aetna, United Healthcare, and others. If your insurance company does not pay for the 3D part of the exam we will not ask you to pay for it.