Three-dimensional (3D) mammography is a revolutionary new screening and diagnostic tool designed for early breast cancer detection. It is performed in conjunction with a traditional 2D digital mammogram.
During the 3D part of the exam, the X-ray arm sweeps in a slight arc over the breast, taking multiple images. A computer uses these images to produce a 3D image of the breast tissue, providing greater details for the radiologist.
Even though 3D mammography is FDA approved, most insurance companies are not yet reimbursing for this exam. Patients choosing to have the additional 3D mammography imaging performed will be asked to pay any additional costs at check-in.
What are the Benefits of 3D Mammography?
With conventional mammography the radiologist is viewing the breast tissue in a flat image. Sometimes this tissue appears overlapped, making it difficult to see all the individual structures. 3D mammography allows the doctor to better see the different structures as well as the location, size and shape of any abnormal tissue, such as small cancers.
In the past, if the radiologist saw an area that was questionable, the patient would be asked to return for additional imaging. By being able to see the breast tissue in smaller, thinner sections, the "second look" might not be necessary.
How to Prepare for a Mammogram
Do not use deodorant, perfume, powders, or ointments under your arms or on your breasts on the day of the mammogram. These substances may hide the images. Remove all jewelry from your neck and chest area. Two-piece clothing is recommended, since you will be asked to undress from the waist up for the exam.
Tell your provider and the x-ray technologist if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you've had a breast biopsy. If you have any moles or scars on your breast, please point them out to the mammographer before the exam begins.
How the Test Will Feel
All high quality mammography requires the mammographer to adequately position and firmly compress the breast so all tissues deep in the breast can be imaged. You may expect this compression to be uncomfortable especially if you have sensitive breast tissue, but it should not be painful and does not harm the breast tissue.
Be sure to inform the mammographer if you are experiencing great pain and discomfort during the exam and less compression will be used if possible.
Breast compression is necessary in order to:
- Even out breast thickness so that all of the tissue can be visualized
- Spread out the tissue so that small abnormalities won’t be obscured by overlying breast tissue
- Allow the use of a lower x-ray dose since a thinner amount of breast tissue is being imaged
- Hold the breast still in order to eliminate blurring of the image caused by motion
- Reduce x-ray scatter to increase sharpness of picture
What Do Abnormal Mammogram Results Mean?
Most abnormal findings on a screening mammogram turn out to be benign (non-cancerous) or nothing to worry about. New findings or changes must be further evaluated.
A radiologist may see the following types of findings on a mammogram:
- A well-outlined, regular, clear spot (this is more likely to be a noncancerous condition, such as a cyst)
- Masses or lumps
- Dense areas in the breast that can be breast cancer or hide breast cancer
- Calcifications, which are caused by tiny deposits of calcium in the breast tissue (most calcifications are not a sign of cancer)
At times, the following tests are also needed to further examine mammogram findings:
- Additional mammogram views, called magnification or compression views
- Breast ultrasound
- Breast MRI exam
Comparing your current mammogram to your past mammograms helps the radiologist tell whether you had an abnormal finding in the past and whether it has changed.
When mammogram or ultrasound results look suspicious, a biopsy is done to test the tissue and see if it is cancerous.
All of our equipment is maintained by highly trained service engineers and meets or exceeds the operating specifications set forth by the manufacturers and the federal government. Special care is taken during the exam to use the lowest radiation dose possible while producing the best images for evaluation. If you are pregnant and are having breast problems, please notify the staff mammographer.