Many patients and physicians alike may have heard about the new “3 Dimensional (3D) mammogram.” This new technology also goes by other names such as Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT), or just “Tomo.” Tomosynthesis is an advanced type of mammogram that can potentially provide a clearer, more accurate view of the breast compared to the standard 2 Dimensional digital mammography alone.
Tomosynthesis acquires images of the compressed breast at multiple angles during a short scan. The individual images are then reconstructed into a series of thin, high-resolution slices which can help eliminate detection challenges associated with overlapping structures in the breast. Henceforth, the name, “3D mammogram.” Research on tomosynthesis in large populations has been shown to reduce recall rates up to 30 percent and increase cancer detection rates (particularly invasive cancers) up to 15 percent. Decreased call back rates may lessen anxiety for patients.
This research is early, but promising. At this time, the recommendations for breast cancer screening apply to conventional 2D mammography. Standard 2D digital mammography is performed on all women, including those women undergoing the additional tomosynthesis views. As DBT involves more imaging, it is more radiation than a standard mammogram but still very low, safe and below the allowable dose for mammography. Special attention should be paid to minimizing radiation exposure while capturing the highest quality images.
While more detailed imaging offered by 3D mammograms can benefit every woman, it has shown to be of the most benefit for patients with dense breast tissue. Roughly half of women across all ages have dense breasts. A patient can learn if she has dense breasts by asking their physician or technologist who performs her exam.
At the James Graham Brown Cancer Center Breast Center, we are currently operating with one tomosynthesis unit. Currently patients are randomized in terms of who is offered the additional option of the 3D tomosynthesis. However, if a patient or referring physician specifically requests the additional 3D mammogram this can be arranged.
This discussion provides a timely opportunity to encourage all women over 40 to engage in an active discussion with their clinical providers related to current breast cancer screening guidelines and recommendations. I recommend that all average risk women to begin annual screening mammography at age 40. For women with potential higher risks, based on family or personal risk factors, these patients may need earlier or additional screening, and should speak with their clinical provider.
Only about 50 percent of the population is participating in screening mammography. Early breast cancer has no signs or symptoms. Screening mammography can help detect small, early breast cancer which can lead to improved long term survival. I encourage all women to participate in screening mammography and whether you choose conventional digital mammography or Tomosynthesis, This new technology is now available at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center Breast Center. At the JGBCC Breast Care Center, we are committed to the highest quality of care, including offering patients access to the newest technological development in the fight against breast cancer.
To schedule your appointment at JGBCC please call: (502) 562-4361, choose option 1.