University of Cincinnati Cancer Institute | UCCI

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Benefits of 3-D Mammography

We are proud to offer the latest in breast cancer screening: 3-D mammography, also known as tomosynthesis. This is the most exciting advancement in breast cancer detection in more than 30 years, and UC Cancer Institute researchers helped establish the benefits of this technology and train others in how to use the technology.

What is a 3-D mammography breast exam?

A 3-D mammography is a revolutionary screening and diagnostic tool designed for early breast cancer detection that can be performed in conjunction with traditional 2-D digital mammogram. During the 3-D part of the exam, the X-ray arm sweeps in a slight arc over your breast, taking multiple breast images. Then, a computer produces a 3-D image of your breast tissue in one millimeter slices, providing greater visibility for the radiologist to see breast detail in a way never before possible. The radiologist can scroll through images of your entire breast like pages of a book. The additional 3-D images make it possible for a radiologist to gain a better understanding of your breast tissue during screening and the confidence to reduce the need for follow up.

Why is there a need for tomosynthesis breast exams?

With conventional digital mammography, the radiologist views all of the complexities of your breast tissue in one flat image. Sometimes breast tissue can overlap, with normal breast tissue giving the illusion of looking like an abnormal area. By looking at the breast tissue in one millimeter slices, the radiologist can provide a more confident assessment. In this way, 3-D mammography finds cancers missed with conventional 2-D mammography. Utilizing this technology also reduces the likelihood for follow up because breast tissue can be seen more clearly.

What is the difference between a screening and diagnostic mammogram?

A screening mammogram is your annual mammogram. Sometimes the radiologist may ask you to come back for follow-up images, called a diagnostic mammogram. This is done to rule out an unclear area in the breast or you have a complaint that needs to be evaluated.

What should I expect during the 3-D mammogram?

3-D mammography complements standard 2-D mammography and is performed at the same time with the same system. There is no additional compression required, and it only takes a few more seconds longer for each view. A typical total exam time is 15 minutes.

Is there a greater radiation exposure?

Very low X-ray energy is used during the exam, just about the same amount as a traditional mammogram done on film.

Who can have a 3-D mammography exam?

3-D mammography is approved for all women who would undergo a standard mammogram, in both the screening and diagnostic settings. 3-D imaging cannot be performed on patients with breast augmentation or extremely large breasts. These patients will receive traditional screening mammography.