3D mammography is the preferred screening modality of the American Society of Breast Surgeons.
Its greatest advantage is that it can detect small cancers and masses hidden in dense breast tissue much earlier than standard 2D mammography. This is because 3D mammograms capture up to 300 images from varying angles versus the two images that standard 2D mammograms typically get.
As a result, a regular screening program using more advanced imaging technology like 3D mammography can help detect cancer earlier.
Treatment options are easier and more plentiful when cancer is detected early or when lesions and tumors are too small to identify with traditional mammography.
However, with DBT, the X-ray tube moves in an arc over your compressed breast to take multiple pictures from different angles.
Instead of capturing the images on film, the pictures are digitally captured and reconstructed by a computer.
With 3D mammography, the radiologist can review 200-300 images, compared to only two (on average) derived from a 2D mammogram.
The computer’s algorithms qualify dense breast tissue and produce a more precise image than conventional 2D mammography.
Although your annual mammogram is now part of your healthcare routine, mammography is a relatively new imaging modality.
In the 1950s and 1960s, researchers began to develop modern mammography machines. It was the late 1970s before the American Cancer Society recommended mammography as a tool in the detection of breast cancer.
In the nearly 50 years since, mammographic imaging has become ever more refined. Now, digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT)— also known as 3D mammography—makes your annual breast cancer screening mammogram more reliable than ever.
In the last 10 years, mammography has made significant gains in producing clear images. Digital mammography (also called full-field digital mammography), computer-aided detection, and 3D mammograms have all changed how physicians, radiologists, and oncologists review mammographic images.
These changes help give you a high-quality annual screening, which improves early breast cancer detection rates and diagnostic follow-ups.
Digital mammograms have helped mammography similar to how digital cameras simplified photo processing. Instead of using film, low-dose X-rays are now converted into digital images of your breasts’ internal structures and tissues.
Radiologists now use 3D mammograms to look for abnormalities like calcifications, masses, and tissue densities that could mean breast cancer. A thorough review of the images can also turn up abnormalities such as ductal carcinomas.
A 3D mammogram captures multiple breast images from different angles. Multiple images from different angles produce static breast images.
When put together, those images can provide radiologists with an interactive, animated clip of breast images, which can help women better understand their results.
According to an article in JAMA Oncology, growing evidence shows that 3D mammography, when combined with standard 2D digital mammography, is more likely to detect cancer than conventional mammograms alone.
3D mammography also decreases the likelihood that your clinician will recall you for additional imaging.
One study by Drs. E.A. Rafferty and E.F. Conant regarding screening outcomes for more than 23,000 women showed that, compared to digital mammograms, DBT resulted in a 41% increase in the detection of invasive breast cancers and a 16% reduction in call-backs for follow-up imaging. RadiologyInfo.org cites other studies that support these findings.
Another study by Per Skaane concluded that in a screening environment, digital breast tomosynthesis has a much higher cancer detection rate, including invasive cancer detection, than a standard mammogram.
Lastly, one study investigated the role of digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) in identifying lesion characteristics. Digital subtraction (comparing contrast and non-contrast images) is the part of DBT that allows for more exact identification of lesions in dense breast tissue.
This screening modality can:
If you’ve never had a mammogram before, here are some mammogram preparation guidelines to help you prepare for any mammogram:
As with all X-rays, during a 3D mammogram, you are exposed to low-level ionizing radiation during a mammogram.
The radiation dosage of a 3D mammogram is similar to that of film mammography and only a little more than in standard 2D digital mammography.
Because a 3D mammogram is usually combined with a standard mammogram, the level of radiation may be greater than a standard mammogram alone. Some newer 3D mammogram machines can create 3D and 2D images at the same time, which lowers the amount of radiation.
Remember, no cancer screening method is 100 percent accurate. While healthcare professionals recommend 3D mammograms, you may still receive a false negative or positive, especially if you have dense breasts.
Advances in mammography have led to the development of 3D mammograms.
Also called digital breast tomosynthesis or DBT, 3D mammograms can help identify ductal carcinoma and other breast abnormalities. While 3D mammography can benefit all women, it can especially help women with dense breasts.
3D mammographic screening improves early breast cancer detection rates over conventional mammography. As a result, that means earlier treatment and more treatment options if you do develop breast cancer.
To learn more about mammograms, please check out: