Doctors agree early detection increases a woman’s chance of surviving breast cancer. If found early, and before it reaches the lymph nodes, the five-year breast cancer survival rate is 100 percent for patients with stage 0 or stage 1 cancer and 93% for those with stage 2 cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute’s SEER database. Until now, digital mammography—a 2-dimensional picture of the breast, has been the standard screening tool to detect cancer.
But the breast is a 3-dimensional object composed of different structures like blood vessels, milk ducts, fat and ligaments. Viewing all of these overlapping structures in a 2-dimensional, flat image is the reason small breast cancers may be missed and normal tissue may appear abnormal leading to unnecessary “call backs.”
3D mammography offers a more accurate look at the breast. It allows the radiologist to examine your breast tissue one layer at a time. 3D mammo converts digital breast images into a stack of very thin layers or “slices” to build what is essentially a 3-dimensional mammogram.
A good analogy for 3D mammography is like pages in a book. Look at the cover and you cannot see all of the pages. Open it up and you can go through the entire book page-by-page to see everything between the covers. 3D mammography shows the radiologist all of the pages in the book.
3D mammograms provide improved visibility of breast tissue which may:
Low X-ray energy is used during the screening so radiation exposure is below the FDA guidelines and is the equivalent to current 2D mammograms.
Guidelines are the same as for mammography in general: yearly mammograms starting at age 40 and if over the age of 75 the benefits should be discussed with your physician. If you are under 40 year of age, you will need an order from your physician for a screening or diagnostic mammogram.
A 3D mammogram is similar to a traditional mammogram. The technologist positions you, compresses your breast under a paddle and takes images from different angles. There is no additional compression required with 3D mammography and it only takes a few seconds longer for each view.
The technologist reviews the images right at the workstation to ensure the images are adequate for the radiologist to review. Your results will be sent to your primary care physician or OB/GYN to discuss with you.
On the day of the exam, do not wear deodorant, talcum powder or lotion under your arms or on your breasts. Describe any breast symptoms or problems you may have to the technologist performing the exam. If possible, obtain prior mammograms and make them available to the radiologist at the time of the current exam.
At Northwest Women’s Imaging, there is no additional charge for 3D mammography compared to our previous digital mammograms. All of our mammograms are conducted with 3D mammography equipment.
The results of the mammogram are interpreted by Dr. Wood, one of our board-certified radiologists accredited in mammography by the American College of Radiology. He also uses Computer Aided Detection (CAD) which is like a second set of eyes that looks at your mammogram. The report is sent to your physician who can discuss the results with you. If there is an abnormality, Dr. Woods will personally talk with you and your family and go over your next step.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women. Northwest Medical Center offers 3D imaging technology for mammograms.
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6200 North LaCholla Blvd.
Tucson, AZ 85741