3D Mammography, or Tomosynthesis, is a new technology being offered at some breast centers. This technology involves the use of a mammogram machine, with a movable arm, that moves across the breast taking multiple x-rays. These multiple x-ray images are then sent back to a computer which then generates a three-dimensional picture of the breast tissue.
Studies to date of this technology show that 3D Mammography reduces the chance of a woman getting called back from the screening mammogram to undergo a diagnostic mammogram. This is because the 3D Mammogram, with its multiple images, reduces the amount of overlapping breast tissue, therefore reducing the possibility of “false density” within the breast due to overlapping breast tissue.
Studies also suggest that there may be a small increase in the cancer detection rate with 3D Mammography (vs. 2D or standard mammography). However, this increase in detection rate varies significantly depending on the study. Also, the increased detection rate was seen with the first 3D Mammogram, and no studies have shown that this increased detection rate will persist year after year.
Some important things should be noted about 3D Mammography. No insurance company is currently reimbursing 3D Mammography, and often, if a patient wants this technology, she is required to pay an additional fee. There is a much higher radiation dose with 3D Mammography when compared to standard (2D) mammography. There is no evidence that 3D Mammography reduces the breast cancer death rate any better than standard (2D) mammography.
Breast MRI, which utilizes no breast compression and involves no radiation, remains the most sensitive test for the detection of breast cancer.
Dr. Thomas Bakondy, MD