Lehigh Valley Health Blog covers the “hottest new technique in breast imaging” – 3D mammography...
3D Mammography: A Revolutionary Tool
Each year there are approximately 40 million mammograms performed in the United States,1 the majority with 2D digital mammography. Approximately 4 million are called back for additional examinations, more than 1 million minimally invasive biopsies are performed, about 300,000 cancers are detected,2 and 40,000 women die of breast cancer.3
A Powerful New Tool in the Fight Against Breast Cancer
Doctors and scientists agree that early detection is the best defense against breast cancer. If we find cancer in its earliest stages, the chances of surviving it are good. Until now, the best way to do that has been with digital mammography.
While digital mammography is still one of the most advanced technologies available today, it has some limitations because it only provides a two-dimensional picture of the breast. The breast is a three-dimensional object composed of different structures, such as blood vessels, milk ducts, fat, and ligaments. All of these structures, which are located at different heights within the breast, can overlap and cause confusion when viewed as a two-dimensional, flat image. This confusion of overlapping tissue is a leading reason why small breast cancers may be missed and normal tissue may appear abnormal, leading to unnecessary call backs. This is an even greater problem with women who are classified as having denser breast tissue.4
Now there is a revolutionary new tool in the fight against breast cancer: 3D mammography.
The Hologic 3D mammography system is revolutionary and combines a process known as “tomosynthesis” to produce a 3D mammogram in addition to a conventional 2D mammogram. The Hologic 3D mammography procedure allows your doctor see masses and distortions associated with cancers much more clearly in the 3D pictures, while calcification fields, which may be precancerous indications, are more easily interpreted in the conventional 2D image. Additionally, 2D images are used by your doctor to compare changes from your prior 2D examinations.
A good analogy for 3D mammography is like thinking of the pages in a book. If you look down at the cover you cannot see all of the pages – but when you open it up, you can go through the entire book page-by-page to see everything between the covers. 3D mammography is designed with the same concept in mind.
During the Hologic 3D mammography procedure, the x-ray arm sweeps in as light arc over the breast, taking multiple images in just seconds. The Hologic 3D mammography system uses high-powered computing to convert the images into a 3D image, which can then be examined by your doctor one page or “slice” at a time.
Instead of viewing all the complexities of your breast tissue superimposed in a flat image as with a traditional mammogram, the Hologic 3D mammography system allows the doctor to examine the breast tissue layer by layer. Fine details are more clearly visible, no longer hidden by the tissue above and below.
Using the Hologic 3D mammography system for screening has been proven to reduce “call-backs” or false positives by 40 percent.5 In addition, the Hologic 3D mammography procedure has also been shown in clinical studies to be more accurate than conventional mammography alone by detecting cancers earlier.6
1 U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “MQSA National Statistics.” Last modified October 2 , 2012. http://www.fda.gov/Radiation-EmittingProducts/MammographyQualityStandard...
2 Rosenberg RD, Yankaskas BC, Abraham LA, Sickles EA, Lehman CD, Geller BM, Carney PA, Kerlikowske K, Buist DS, Weaver DL, Barlow WE, Ballard-Barbash R; Performance Benchmarks For Screening Mammography. Radiology. 2006 Oct;241(1):55-66.
3 American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Fact & Figures 2011-2012. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, Inc., 2012.
4 Bernardi, D, et. al. “Prospective Study of Breast Tomosynthesis as a Triage to Assessment in Screening.” Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 133(1) (Epub 2012): 267-71.
5 Philpotts, Liane, et. al. “Initial Experience With Digital Breast Tomosynthesis in Screening Mammography.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Roentgen Ray Society Annual Meeting, Vancouver, British Columbia, May 3, 2012.
6 Skaane, Per, et. al. “Reading Time of FFDM and Tomosynthesis in a Population-based Screening Program.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, Chicago, Illinois, November 29, 2011.