3D Mammography: Is it the Right Choice for You?

Breast cancer remains one of the most common types of cancer among women in the U.S. and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in women. However, death rates from breast cancer have declined since the late 1980s, largely due to improvements in diagnostic technology, earlier detection rates, increased education and awareness, and improved treatment options.

How does 3D mammography work?

In conventional digital mammography, only one image of the breast is produced by overlapping the tissue horizontally and vertically, which makes it more difficult to detect cancers. The technology behind 3-D mammography, called tomosynthesis, allows radiologists to view the whole breast in greater detail. During 3-D mammography, a special imaging machine moves in an arc over the breast. Multiple images are acquired at different angles, creating a three-dimensional view of the breast. Radiologists can then view each layer of tissue—similar to leafing through individual pages of a book. Expanding the amount of tissues a radiologist can examine may result in increased detection rates of smaller, harder to see lesions in the breast and decreased false alarms.

Potential benefits of 3D mammograms

  • Earlier detection of small breast lesions, especially in dense breast tissue
  • Increased accuracy in determining the size, shape, and location of breast abnormalities
  • Decreased risk of false-positive results
  • Reduced need for additional testing
  • Clearer, more accurate images of breast tissue, especially in dense breasts

Who may be a good candidate for 3D mammography?

  • Women with dense breast tissue
  • Women who need a baseline mammogram to serve as the basis for comparison in later exams
  • Women with family history of breast cancer
  • Women who have a personal history of breast cancer

It is important to speak with your physician about your options for diagnostic testing. If 3D mammography seems right for you, it is also necessary that you understand the overall process and potential risks associated with this type of testing.