Is 3D Right for Me?
All women should consider 3D mammography when it comes time for their regular screening, says Dr. M. Lisa Attebery, breast surgical oncologist with Beebe General Surgery.
For those with a family history of breast cancer or those with dense breasts, 3D mammography is highly recommended, but even for those with average risk, 3D mammography can prevent the need for further scans if something is found.
3D mammography gives your doctor a three-dimensional view of the breast, which can lead to earlier cancer detection and fewer biopsies for patients, Dr. Attebery said.
How Does It Work?
3D mammography, or breast tomosynthesis in clinical terms, is similar to traditional 2D mammography in many ways.
The machine looks the same, and each breast has images taken in two positions. The radiation dose from a 2D mammogram image and a 3D scan is nearly the same, too.
But instead of taking a single image while the breast is compressed (2D), each 3D image is a 4-second scan of the breast—taking about 50 photos per position.
Taking more photos allows the radiologist to view the breast from multiple angles and to separate overlapping—but otherwise normal—tissue that can look like cancer or make cancer difficult to detect on a traditional mammogram.
Think of it as a book—when you look down at the book, all you can see is the cover (like 2D mammography). But, when you open the book, you can see all the pages (like 3D mammography). The 3D scan also generates an additional image that looks like a traditional mammogram, which is viewed in conjunction with the image slices and can be compared with your prior mammograms.
Is 3D Right for Me?
While all women can benefit from 3D mammography, women with dense breast tissue benefit most because dense tissue is significantly more difficult to read on traditional 2D mammogram images. Other women who may also benefit, due to a heightened risk of breast cancer, include those who have had breast cancer, and women with a strong family history of breast cancer, or are known carriers of BRCA, also known as the“breast cancer gene."