Your Concierge Doctor Discusses 3D Mammography and Who Benefits From It

December 2, 2014

You may have seen articles about 3-D mammography and wondered whether it is a test that you or one of the women you know need. Regular screening mammograms show the radiologist a two-dimensional picture of the breast. 3-D mammography lets the radiologist see the breast tissue one layer at a time, making it possible to detect early stage tumors that might not be able to be picked up with traditional mammography alone. Instead of seeing all of the breast tissue in a single flat image, the 3-D mammogram allows the radiologist to examine a series of high resolution, 1 mm thick slices at a time. It is easier to see the fine details and determine what is suspicious and what is normal. Dense breast tissue may cause false positive and false negative results on a standard mammogram. A false positive result means that the test says there is a problem when there is not. A false negative result means that the problem is missed. In the case of mammograms we are talking about missing breast cancer or causing a woman to worry that she has breast cancer or getting more testing when she does not have cancer.

This is critical for women with dense breast tissue because their risk for breast cancer is three times higher than those with lower density tissue. Early diagnosis can allow for less invasive treatment and pick up cancer early before it has spread to other parts of the body. If detected in the earliest stages the five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 98%. The 3-D mammogram finds more invasive or lethal cancers than a standard mammogram. Fewer women get called back for more views because the radiologist can see the breast tissue more clearly. The actual examination is very similar to a traditional mammogram. Very low energy x-rays are used as with traditional mammograms. Women with dense breasts should talk with their doctor to determine if they should get a 3-D mammogram. If you do not know if you have dense breasts you should ask your doctor. Your previous mammogram report should say if you have dense breasts. As women get older their breasts become less dense. Torrance Memorial Hospital is the only local facility to  have 3-D mammography available. The cost for a 3-D mammogram is the same as a traditional mammogram. Routine mammography screening for breast cancer is important for women. Make sure you or the women in your life get their screening tests whether it be traditional mammography or 3-D mammography for women with dense breast.

As your concierge physician I welcome questions, comments, suggestions and ideas.