How does 3D mammography work?

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By AdventHealth

When it comes to breast care, the latest, leading-edge technological advancements like 3D mammograms can provide greater peace of mind with clearer and more accurate results — with up to 40% increased detection rates of invasive breast cancer.

Read more to learn what 3D mammography is, who needs it, what to expect during your exam and steps to take following your results. 

What is 3D mammography?

3D mammography (also called digital breast tomosynthesis or DBT) is an FDA-approved advancement to detect breast cancer early when its most treatable. A 3D mammogram allows your radiologist to see your breast tissue details more clearly, allowing breast cancer to be detected that would otherwise be hidden by overlying breast tissue.

In a 3D mammogram, multiple thin-section images allow your radiologist to assess your breast tissue layer by layer. During the exam, the X-ray arm moves in a small arc over your breast and acquires several low-dose images, which are reconstructed into a 3D image. Conventional 2D mammograms obtain only two images of the breast.

Who needs a 3D mammogram?

Your health care provider may suggest a 3D mammogram to investigate an unexpected growth or to help identify the source of any symptoms you may have.

The American Society of Breast Surgeons recommends that all women over age 40 have an annual 3D mammography breast screening. Women with a higher-than-average risk of breast cancer should have yearly screenings starting at age 35.

Performing a 3D mammogram can be especially useful for those with dense breast tissue because dense breast tissue may make images from 2D mammograms more cloudy or unclear. Malignancies and signs of tumors appear dense and white on an X-ray image. Dense breast tissue can also appear white, which may obscure any signs of unusual growth.

As 3D mammograms use many images of various layers of tissue, it makes it easier for your provider to detect unexpected growths even in dense breast tissue.

People with unusual symptoms or signs of breast disease may also need a 3D mammogram.

3D mammograms can also reduce the need for follow-up imaging.

What can you expect during a 3D mammogram?

The process of a 3D mammogram is very similar to 2D digital mammography and takes the same amount of time, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

Images of each breast are taken from the top and side of your breasts. Pressure will be applied while taking the pictures to obtain the most accurate images.

We use the latest 3D mammography technology and software to limit radiation exposure.

Steps to take after your 3D mammogram results

If a mammogram shows an atypical result, you may need further testing to reach a diagnosis. However, atypical results dont necessarily mean someone has breast cancer. Doctors may need to examine a specific area in more detail or examine any cysts or masses.

Health care providers will need to analyze any unusual signs in the breast tissue to check if they are benign or could indicate breast cancer. A follow-up examination may include one or more of the following:

  • Another mammogram
  • MRI
  • Ultrasound.

If your results show nothing out of the ordinary, you may not need further testing until your next well-woman checkup. If a 3D mammogram or additional testing shows any concerning indications, your provider may recommend a biopsy to further investigate and confirm the findings.

Schedule your 3D mammogram

Dont wait to schedule your mammogram. Early detection of breast cancer is so important because its still the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among American women. A mammogram allows for the earliest detection of breast cancer — up to two years before you or your doctor can feel a tumor — and 3D mammography can detect it even sooner than traditional methods. Catching breast cancer early allows treatment to begin right away, possibly before the cancer spreads and when therapies can be most effective.

October is breast cancer awareness month and a great time to get your annual mammogram. To schedule at one of the four AdventHealth locations, call 913-676-2505.

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