Mammograms, which are x-ray images of the breast, have long been crucial in diagnosing breast cancer. With the advent of new technology, 3D mammography has been shown to detect more breast cancer, reduce the amount of “false positives” and cut down on the need for women to get additional images following a standard 2D mammogram. Riverside Tappahannock Hospital and Riverside Walter Reed Hospital have added 3D mammography to its women’s imaging services and hospital staff, physicians, and patients are equally excited about this new screening option and the clarity it can provide.
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While the procedure is almost identical to the traditional 2D mammogram, using compression and taking images of the breast, 3D mammography, or breast tomosynthesis as it is technically known, involves an x-ray arm that sweeps in an arc over the breast taking multiple images at different angles. A computer then converts the images into a stack of thin layers, allowing the radiologist to review breast tissue one layer at a time. What that means for patients is a much clearer picture of their breast health for radiologists looking for abnormalities and tumors. It also cuts down on the need for multiple tests, saving women a lot of angst about potentially positive diagnoses.
A new standard of care.
Mammography technologists at Riverside describe the new technology as “amazing.” Used for both screening and diagnostic breast exams, 3D mammography is especially beneficial for women with dense or fibrous breast tissue.
Research has proven the effectiveness of 3D mammography, demonstrating increases in early detection of breast cancer by as much as 54 percent. In addition, having a 3D image has resulted in a 41 percent increase in invasive breast cancer detection, and compared to other scans it has been shown to catch cancers up to 15 months earlier.
Many health insurances – although not all – have started covering 3D mammography screening. For patients without the coverage, there is a fee associated with the 3D screening.
Another important tool in the fight against breast cancer.
According to estimates from the American Cancer Society, nearly 253,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in 2017. Detecting cancers early is key to improving survival rates, and improving quality of life, as masses found earlier will likely result in less aggressive treatment.
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