The Benefits of 3D Images During a Mammogram

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3D mammography tomosynthesis makes a 3D image of the breast with the use of x-rays. It was approved by the FDA but has not yet been used enough to be considered the standard care of screening for breast cancer. It is a fairly new technology and is only available at various hospitals. 3D mammography tomosynthesis differs from the common mammogram in the same way that a CT scan differs from a chest x-ray. You can compare it to a ball and a circle- it is basically the same idea but one is 3D and one is flat. When you get a mammogram, they usually take two images of each breast from the top angle and side angle. The mammogram machine pulls the breast away from the body and compresses it between to plates in order to ensure that the whole breast is properly imaged. The pictures are recorded on film or on the computer depending on if the machine is regular or digital. From there, a radiologist can read the images and make informed diagnosis based on irregular white areas or shadows. While mammograms have proven to be quite effective, there are some negatives points:

  1. The compression of the mammogram is pretty uncomfortable and a lot of women have voiced how much they dislike getting it done. It’s actually stopped some women from having the test done all together.

  2. Making a compression causes breast tissue to overlap itself thus hiding cancer between the tissue. The images in the mammogram would not catch the cancer in this case.

  3. They only take one picture from the two different angles which is not enough to truly determine is there is any cancer in the breast.

3D mammography tomosynthesis is trying to overcome the above problems by taking multiple x-rays of the breast from a lot of different angles. A lot less pressure needs to be applied than a typical mammogram; only enough to keep the breast still during the process. The whole exam using 3D mammography tomosynthesis takes a mere seven seconds, during which 11 pictures are taken. The process is digital so after the test is complete, the images are sent to a computer where the software produce a high quality 3D image of the inside of the breast. This type of testing is looking very promising in the realm of MRI radiology and will likely be the standard test for radiology imaging in radiology centers around the nation very soon.

Finding out that you have breast cancer can be a very difficult time of life. It is recommended that women over the age of 40 have regular mammograms as they are at higher risk of breast cancer. However, even if you are under the age of 40, it is a good idea to have periodic mammograms, especially if cancer runs in your family.

Catching the breast cancer early on gives a woman a much higher chance of recovery and less risk of having to take extreme measures to get rid of the cancer. Getting routine mammograms will cut down on those risk and hopefully catch the cancer before it begins to get worse or spread into other areas of the body. By using 3D digital mammography, chances are even better than the cancer will be caught quickly because of how efficient the images are. They are extremely clear and focused so that the smallest of shadows show up and can be noticeable once the test is done. It’s a very easy and quick test that produces a much better picture; there really is no down side. Really, the only reason why it is not yet the common standard of care is because each hospital would have to purchase the new machinery and it is very expensive; worth it, but expensive and funds have to be raised in order to be able to afford it. It costs about twice as much as a regular mammogram machine ranging around $300,000. This limits availability but even this shouldn’t be a huge factor because it would pay for itself. Bigger hospitals in densely populated areas will be able to procure the machines faster because they have more patients passing through that would cover the cost of the machinery faster than in rural hospitals.

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