An Up-Close Look at 3D Mammography

For the December 2016 Breast Health Collaborative, Lisa Wood with Hancock Regional Hospital discussed the practice and benefits of using tomosynthesis, or 3D mammography.

With tomosynthesis, an x-ray tube rotates all the way around the breast and uses one compression to capture 15 high resolution images, both 2D and 3D, in about three seconds. These exposures are quickly transferred to a work station for review.

Lisa said you can think of the process as flipping through pages of a book, or like pulling a piece of bread out of a loaf and then replacing the piece of bread.

Tomosynthesis can be done during screenings if the patient chooses. It can also be used at a diagnostic level, but isn’t necessary if the patient has already had a 3D mammogram during a screening. The results of 3D mammograms are so accurate that patients can go straight to biopsy if one is needed, without needing to follow up for diagnostic testing first.

The procedure is FDA approved and gaining in popularity due to many benefits, including:

  • Greater accuracy compared to 2D mammograms, allowing for earlier detection
  • Less stress on the patient
  • Fewer callbacks, resulting in more peace of mind for patients
  • Compression and exam time are comparable with 2D mammograms
  • Low dose of radiation
  • Covered by Medicare and many private insurers
  • Proven in research and clinic use

In clinical trials, tomosynthesis reduced callbacks by 40 percent and increased the detection of invasive breast cancers by 41 percent, finding cancers approximately 15 months earlier than compared to traditional mammograms.

The out-of-pocket cost for insured patients is usually $150 – $175. It’s recommended that patients opting to use tomosynthesis during screenings stick with this method for consistency and continued accuracy.

Lisa said Hancock Regional Hospital began using tomosynthesis in October 2016 and have been happy with the results, despite the equipment cost and additional staff training that was needed in the onboarding process.

Many hospital systems in central Indiana now offer tomosynthesis. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are interested in learning more about the process and if 3D mammography is right for you.

Learn about the next Breast Health Collaborative, happening in February 2017.