This October, as we observe Breast Cancer Awareness Month, WakeMed has begun offering 3D mammography at Cary Hospital. While traditional 2D screening mammography is a valuable tool in the early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer, 3D mammography has been shown to improve breast cancer detection by providing a more detailed, complete view of the breast tissue. Doctors and scientists agree that early detection is the best defense against breast cancer, and 3D mammography (also called breast tomosynthesis) is the newest technology in the fight against this disease.
What is 3D Mammography?
The breast is a three-dimensional body part composed of different structures, such as blood vessels, milk ducts, fat and ligaments. All of these structures can overlap and cause confusion or create the illusion of an abnormality when the breast is viewed as a two-dimensional, flat image.
Performed in conjunction with a traditional 2D digital mammogram, the 3D mammogram uses high-powered computing to convert digital breast images into a stack of very think layers or slices. The 3D technology creates a more complete picture of the breast that allows radiologists to see inside the breast with a more accurate, layer-by-layer view.
“In the past, if the radiologist saw an area that was questionable, the patient would have to return for additional imaging,” said Libby Dore, director (Imaging Services – Cary Hospital). “With 3D mammography, the breast tissue can be seen in smaller, thinner sections, often making the ‘second look’ unnecessary.”
It has been proven that 3D mammography finds cancers earlier than 2D mammography alone, with a 27 percent increase in cancer detection and a 40 percent increase in invasive cancer detection. It is recommended for all breast types but is especially beneficial for patients who have dense or very dense breasts.
What to Expect During a 3D Mammography Exam
A 3D mammography exam is very similar to a traditional mammography exam. The technologist will position the patient, compress the breast under a paddle and take images from different angles. There is no additional compression required with 3D mammography, and it only takes a few seconds longer for each view. Very low X-ray energy is used during the exam.
The technologist will view the images on a computer to ensure adequate information has been captured for the radiologist to review. The results will either be reported to the patient directly or to the patient’s physician.
Screening mammography does not require a physician order. Call Cary Hospital at 919-350-7000 to schedule an appointment. Insurance rates vary, so check with your provider for your plan’s specific coverage.
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