3D Mammograms More Effective at Detecting Breast Cancer

3D Mammograms More Effective at Detecting Breast Cancer

Women over 50 are recommended to get a mammogram every two years in an attempt to catch the early onset of breast cancer. However, mammogram results often give false-positive results and sometimes even fail to provide a cancer diagnoses.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers found that an alternate option to a traditional digital mammogram, a tomosynthesis procedure, detects more invasive cancers and reduces the number of callbacks for secondary imaging related to false alarms.

Tomosynthesis, or a 3D mammography, consists of an X-ray of the breast tissue, similar to the traditional digital mammography. The 3D mammogram X-ray beam takes multiple images that is then sent to a computer in a form of a 3D image, which presents a detailed visual of what the breast tissue looks like.

“We’re actually able to scroll or leaf through the different layers of the breast tissue,” Dr. Emily Conant, the chief of breast imaging in the department of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania and lead study author said in an interview. “False positives, or things that look funny on a 2D image, are less frequent because we can scroll through.  We also can find cancers that were obscured are hidden behind breast tissue.”

In the study, researchers looked at 281,187 digital mammograms and 173,663 combined tomosynthesis and digital mammograms from hospitals in the U.S between 2010 and 2012. They found that 3D mammography examinations detected 30% more cancers and 41% more invasive cancers than the traditional method. While the 3D mammograms increase detection, it also can help reduce false positives. The number of women who were called back for additional tests because of a false alarm was reduced by 15%.

The FDA approved 3D mammography in 2011 to be used alongside the standard mammography. 3D mammograms are not covered by all insurances and tomosynthesis machines are costly, making this new technology not accessible to all women.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, regardless of race or ethnicity. In 2012, 206,966 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.

While many factors can influence your risk of breast cancer, the exact causes are still unknown. To prevent the development of breast cancer, aim to keep a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and get adequate sleep each night. Quit smoking and limit your alcohol consumption.