Breast Tomosynthesis (3D Mammography)
Breast tomosynthesis is a mammogram that gives radiologists the ability to view inside the breast layer by layer. During this simple exam, multiple images, or “slices,” are taken of different angles of the breast, exposing fine details that might be obscured by overlapping tissue. The experience of getting a breast tomosynthesis exam is exactly like getting a mammogram except that it takes a few seconds longer as the machine arm passes over the breast. There is no addition breast compression and the scanner is able to produce both a standard mammogram and breast tomosynthesis simultaneously.
The benefits of breast tomosynthesis are considerable. By revealing more of the breast tissue, breast tomosynthesis improves early detection of cancer. Studies have shown an up to 41 percent increase in the number of invasive breast cancers detected. Also, because radiologists can have a closer look at the features in the breast, they are better able to discern between benign and cancerous abnormalities. That means fewer women get called back for additional imaging, cutting down on anxiety and expense. With breast tomosynthesis, callbacks have been reduced by up to 40 percent.
Breast tomosynthesis, like standard mammography, is an x-ray examination that uses extremely low doses of radiation to obtain accurate images of the breasts. The amount of radiation used is roughly equivalent to the amount used in film mammograms. It is below the FDA safety range and has been determined to be safe and effective. Breast tomosynthesis is recommended for both screening and diagnostic mammograms. Studies have shown that all patients can benefit from breast tomosynthesis regardless of breast density, but it is an excellent study for women with dense breast tissue.
Early detection is the best defense against breast cancer and breast tomosynthesis has been shown to be more effective in detecting cancer than conventional mammography.
The American Cancer Society estimates that one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. While the exact cause of breast cancer has not been found, we do know that it is treatable and can often be cured when detected early. ARA recommends that women begin screening mammography at age 40 and continue yearly thereafter. Your physician may recommend a screening exam before age forty based on your risk factors for breast cancer. Because a small percentage of breast cancers cannot be seen on a mammogram, your best defense against breast cancer is an annual mammogram, monthly breast self-examination, and an annual breast exam by your physician.
When will I know the results?
One of our board-certified radiologists will interpret your breast tomosynthesis and a written report will be sent to your physician usually within 3-7 working days depending on the type of breast tomosynthesis you have. Please be aware that delays in sending reports can sometimes occur when previous exams are needed for comparison. You will receive a letter within 30 days. If you have any questions about the results, please contact your physician.
Screening versus Diagnostic Exams
The exam will vary whether you are having a screening mammogram or a diagnostic mammogram:
Screening breast tomosynthesis:
This exam is for women who do not have breast symptoms. When you arrive for a screening exam you will be asked to change into a gown. A registered female technologist will perform your examination. The routine views are a top-to-bottom view and a side view. Each breast will be compressed for a few seconds while the x-rays are taken. This may be slightly uncomfortable, but it is necessary for an accurate examination. As many women experience increased breast tenderness prior to menstruation, you may wish to avoid scheduling your breast tomosynthesis during that time to minimize discomfort. When the exam is completed, you will be asked to wait until the technologist examines the images. The procedure takes approximately 10 minutes and you will be in the office for about 30 minutes.
Diagnostic breast tomosynthesis:
This exam is for women with signs or symptoms of breast disease such as a worrisome breast lump, skin changes or nipple discharge, or for women with breast implants or a history of breast cancer. It is also used to further evaluate problematic areas detected on a screening exam. The diagnostic breast tomosynthesis exam will take place in the same manner as the screening exam but may include additional views or special techniques to magnify a suspicious area. Your doctor or the radiologist may also ask you to have a sonogram (ultrasound study). A diagnostic breast tomosynthesis exam may take up to 1 hour depending on how many views are needed.