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3D mammography offers better detection of breast cancer

Breast Tomosynthesis or 3D mammography is the latest advance in digital mammography. The advantages over traditional mammography (also known as 2D mammography) include better cancer detection at an earlier stage and fewer return visits for additional images and therefore less anxiety and greater convenience for women undergoing mammography.

3D mammography is actually similar to traditional 2D mammography in many ways. The machine looks the same and each breast has images taken in two positions. However, instead of taking a single image while the breast is compressed, each 3D image is a 4-second scan of the breast. This results in a series of 1 mm thick images or slices of the breast. There are approximately 50 image slices per position. This allows the radiologist to view the breast at multiple angles and to separate overlapping normal tissue that can look like cancer or make cancer difficult to detect on a traditional mammogram.

Think of it like a book – when you look down at the book, all you can see is the cover. This is like traditional mammography. But, when you open the book, you can see all the pages. This is 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.

The radiation dose from a 2D mammogram image and a 3D scan is nearly the same.

Who needs 3D?
While all women may benefit from 3D mammography (breast tomosynthesis), the greatest benefit is in women with dense breast tissue. Other women who may also benefit most, due to a higher risk of breast cancer, include those who have had breast cancer, and women with a strong family history of breast cancer or known carriers of the BRCA breast cancer gene.

Starting this month, 3D mammography will be offered for breast cancer screenings at Beebe Healthcare’s Women’s Imaging facility, part of the Breast Health Program, in the Bookhammer Outpatient Center on Route 24 in Rehoboth. Priority will be given to women with a higher than average risk of breast cancer, including women with significantly dense breast tissue.

According to the American Cancer Society, women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health. Schedule your mammogram today by calling (302) 645-3278.

Beebe Healthcare's Breast Health Program is the only one in Delaware to be accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC), administered by the American College of Surgeons.

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Ellen Bahtiarian, MD, is Board Certified in Radiology and Nuclear Medicine. She is a member of Southern Delaware Imaging Associates, a group of radiologists who provide imaging interpretations for all of the Beebe Healthcare Imaging locations 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.