Posted by Lindsey LeBaron

Why your next clinical breast exam should include a 3D mammogram

October 27, 2021 Cancer CenterImaging

Early detection and advanced treatment are among the most important strategies for surviving and mitigating breast cancer. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a decrease in cancer screenings and elective health procedures. As a result, many people have missed their annual physicals and health screenings. More than ever, it is vital for men and women to have an annual physical exam every year and for women to have a clinical breast exam to avoid the risk of breast cancer.

What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is an x-ray used by a qualified specialist to examine the breast tissue for diseases and cancers. During the procedure, the breast is exposed to a small dose of ionizing radiation that produces an image of the breast tissue.

Why should you get a mammogram? 

Breast cancers found during medical screenings are likely to be small, especially when the woman is screened regularly for breast cancer. Screening tests are used to find diseases in people who do not have any symptoms and are often the best way to detect cancer and diseases early. A mammogram screening can often find breast changes, such as irregular lumps and tissue, years before symptoms of breast cancer develop. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year relative survival rate is 99 percent when breast cancer is found early and is in the localized stage.

What is the difference between a 3D mammogram and a regular mammogram?

New technological developments have improved mammograms from 2D (which create a two-dimensional breast image) to 3D. 3D mammograms (also called breast tomosynthesis or tomosynthesis) create a 3D picture of the breast using x-rays. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved 3D mammograms as a standard of care for breast cancer. Several studies found that 3D mammograms find more cancers and reduce the number of false positives.

Standard 2D mammograms are still effective, but they have some important limitations:

  • The compression on the breast during the procedure can be uncomfortable. Some women avoid regular mammogram screenings solely because of the uncomfortable procedure.
  • The compression also causes overlapping of the breast tissue. Breast cancers can be hidden in overlapping tissue and may not show up on the mammogram due to this compression.
  • Standard mammograms only take one picture across the entire breast in two directions: top to bottom and side to side

A 3D mammogram (or digital tomosynthesis) takes multiple pictures of each breast at many different angles. The x-ray tube moves in an arc around the breast and takes 11 pictures during a seven-second procedure. The information is sent to a computer that assembles all the pictures into clear and highly focused 3D images throughout the entire breast. While the 3D breast imaging technique is a new procedure, researchers believe that it will make it easier for specialists to see dense breast tissue, spot early signs of breast cancer more effectively, and make breast screening more comfortable for patients.

When should you get a mammogram?

The following are age guidelines for women who have an average risk for breast cancer. A woman is at average risk if she doesn’t have a personal history of breast cancer, has a strong family history of breast cancer, has a genetic mutation that is known to increase the risk for breast cancer (including a BRCA gene,) and has not had chest radiation therapy before the age of 30.

  • All Women: should have a basic understanding of what a mammogram can and cannot do for their health.
  • Women ages 40 and 44: have the choice to start screening with a mammogram annually.
  • Women ages 45-54: should get a mammogram annually
  • Women ages 55 and older: can either continue to get a mammogram annually or switch to getting a mammogram every other year. Screenings should continue for as long as the woman is in good health and expected to live for at least ten more years.

For more information about what you can do if you have an abnormal mammogram, such as lumps in the breast, cancerous cysts, or tumors, visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation here. If you would like to schedule an appointment for a 3D mammogram, reach out to your healthcare provider or visit Revere Health Imaging to schedule an appointment today.

WRITTEN BY:

Lindsey LeBaron

Lindsey LeBaron has been working as the Marketing Assistant for Revere Health for the past three years. Lindsey has a bachelor’s degree in social sciences at Brigham Young University and will graduate with her master’s degree in global strategic communications at Florida International University in December 2021. Coupled with her master’s degree, Lindsey is also working on a certification in crisis management and consensus-building. Recently, she was awarded the honor of joining the National Communications Association as a member of the Lambda Pi Eta honor society. Lindsey is passionate about building lasting connections between communities to create lasting change and believes that communication is a vital element to building long-lasting relationships. When she is out of the office, Lindsey enjoys singing and playing the piano, going on adventures, traveling to new locations, and reading books about world affairs.

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.