You know how important your annual mammogram is to your health. Now, Larchmont Medical Imaging has made it even better, with a new, state-of-the-art tool for the fight against breast cancer: three-dimensional (3D) mammography, also called breast tomosynthesis. Available at all Larchmont locations, a 3D mammogram helps radiologists find cancer earlier and reduces the need for call-backs for additional testing.
One easy way to understand what 3D mammography does is to think of it as “two tests in one.” The first test is a conventional mammogram—still the lifesaving gold standard in the early detection of breast cancer—that generates a set of two-dimensional images of your breasts for radiologists to examine for signs of cancer.
But a 3D mammogram adds a second set of pictures: 3D image “slices” of breast tissue at different depths. This gives our radiologists additional views that make it easier to find small cancers that may “hide” in overlapping 2D images of breast tissue. As a result, 3D mammograms provide another tool to detect breast cancer at its early, most treatable stage. While this capability can benefit all women, the additional views provided by 3D mammograms are especially beneficial to women with dense breasts.
There are two ways to look at the difference: (1) from a radiologist's perspective, and (2) from the patient's perspective. For the radiologist, 3D mammograms supplement conventional 2D mammogram images with a set of 3D image slices that show breast tissue at different depths, making it easier to detect and characterize abnormalities that could hide in 2D mammogram images. This improves the ability to detect breast cancer at its early, most treatable stage.
From the patient's perspective, 3D and 2D mammograms seem almost identical. They take about the same amount of time and use a similar degree of breast compression
Research has shown that 3D mammograms increase the rate of breast cancer detection and the accuracy of diagnosis, and reduce the need for call-backs. They are especially beneficial for women with dense breasts, since dense breast tissue makes cancer more difficult to detect in a 2D mammogram. However, the enhanced early detection capability of 3D mammograms applies to all women, regardless of their breast tissue density.
The criteria for 3D screening mammograms is the same as for 2D screening mammograms: recommended for women age 40 and over, or for some younger women with certain risk factors for breast cancer. However, the enhanced detection capabilities of 3D mammograms are especially beneficial to women with dense breasts.
The radiation dose comparison between 2D and 3D mammograms varies depending on such factors as breast physiology and the type of equipment that was used for a patient's previous 2D mammograms. However, in all cases the radiation exposure per exam is well within the acceptable limits established by the American College of Radiology.
The standard 2D portion of screening mammograms are covered by insurance, but not all insurance carriers cover the 3D portion of the exam. In New Jersey, insurance MAY provide coverage for 3D mammograms on women with breast tissue in the extremely dense category. For those requesting a 3D/Tomosynthesis mammogram you may be required to pay a nominal fee for the additional 3D service.
We hope we have answered all of your questions about 3D mammograms. If you have further questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call (609) 261.4500.