Screening for and diagnosing breast cancer is quicker and more precise than ever before thanks to new three-dimensional (3D) mammography being used at the Herman & Walter Samuelson Breast Care Center at Northwest.
3D mammography, also called tomosynthesis, is a new type of FDA approved mammogram. It is one of the biggest breakthroughs in the early detection of breast cancer because it helps to find cancer when it is small and most treatable.
The technology uses powerful computers to create a stack of very thin high resolution photos of the breast instead of the traditional one picture. These clear detailed photos allow radiologists to differentiate between abnormal areas and normal breast tissue because the location, size and shape of the abnormal areas are seen more distinctly.
The mammogram offered at the Samuelson Breast Care Center now includes both this new 3D mammogram along with the traditional two-dimensional (2D) digital mammogram. This combined mammogram takes only a few seconds longer than the digital 2D mammogram alone as the X-ray arm moves above the breast to get the additional information. Very low energy X-rays are used so that the exposure is well-below the FDA limits.
"With tomosynthesis, doctors are able to see even small changes in the breast that often remain hidden with the digital two-dimensional views so that diagnoses can be made in a timelier way," said Dawn Leonard, M.D., medical director of the Samuelson Breast Care Center at Northwest. "On the other side of the equation, in many cases, this type of imagery can also help us conclude that a spot is non-cancerous without having to do further procedures."
Three-dimensional mammograms reduce the need to call women back for a second mammogram to get a better look of an area of concern, and they also cut back on the need for biopsies. They can be used in conjunction with customary digital mammograms or by themselves.
The 3D mammogram is especially beneficial for women at high risk of breast cancer, those with a strong family history of the disease, as well as those with dense beast tissue.
The Samuelson Breast Care Center offers these 3D mammograms to all women. Although health insurance companies currently do not cover this service, Northwest Hospital is offering it at no additional charge over the regular digital mammogram.
"At the Samuelson Breast Care Center, we believe that this new technology gives our patients an edge in the fight against breast cancer, so we are providing this service without any cost at this time to remove any financial barriers," explained Preeti Gupta, M.D., medical director of Breast Imaging.