Advancements in mammography screening technology have brought about the evolution of 3D mammography, also known as digital breast tomosynthesis.
With standard mammography – or 2D mammography – the detection of breast cancer can be made more difficult by the limits of the “flat” imagery. These limitations allow for some breast cancers to hide behind healthy tissue, while normal tissues, stacked on top of each other, may create a shadowy or cloudy image which can appear to be cancer.
With 3D mammography, the images of the breast are taken in slices which present a more three-dimensional visual of the breast. The radiologist can see all around and between the breast tissues with greater clarity than ever before.
Digital breast tomosynthesis uses a low-dose, short x-ray sweep around the compressed breast with only nine low-dose exposures. This technique is designed to provide crisp and distinct images that do not overlap one another, which represents a limiting factor in standard 2D mammography. However, the dosing of this unique technique is equivalent to that of the 2D mammography while providing a higher level of quality imaging.
Similarly, the screening routine for 3D mammography is no different than for 2D. Preparation tasks such as not wearing deodorant or jewelry are the same, as is the positioning of the breast during the actual exam. The differences relate only to the quality of the finished images.
Because of this higher quality imaging, 3D mammography is also beneficial for women with dense breasts. Women with dense breasts are between four to six times more likely to develop breast cancer; however, for these women, cancer detection can be more challenging – especially with the limitations of traditional mammography. Now, this unique three-dimensional screening provides the same clinical applications as traditional mammography for any type of breast, including women with dense breasts, but with more defined images which may help to detect cancer earlier.
Currently, 3D mammography is covered by Medicare and many other insurances – but not all. To ensure coverage, you should check with your insurance provider. If insurance coverage is not available, the upfront cost is $80 – split as two separate fees: $35 fee from Methodist Medical Center and $45 radiology fee. However, you have a choice between choosing 3D or 2D mammography for your screening.
A referral is not required for tomosynthesis. To schedule an appointment, call the Oak Ridge Breast Center at (865) 835-3760.
Oak Ridge Breast Center is one of several Covenant Health Breast Centers of Excellence to offer this advanced screening tool.