Doctors agree early detection increases a woman's chance of surviving breast cancer. If found early, and before it reaches the lymph nodes, the five-year breast cancer survival rate is 100 percent for patients with stage 0 or stage 1 cancer and 93 percent for those with stage 2 cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute's SEER database. Until now, digital mammography — a two-dimensional picture of the breast — has been the standard screening tool to detect cancer.
Digital breast tomosynthesis, also known as 3-D mammography, offers a more accurate look at the breast. This technology converts digital breast images into a stack of very thin layers or "slices" to build what is essentially a three-dimensional mammogram, allowing the radiologist to examine your breast tissue one layer at a time.
A good analogy for 3-D mammography is like pages in a book. Look at the cover and you cannot see all of the pages. Open it up and you can go through the entire book page by page to see everything between the covers. 3-D mammography shows the radiologist all of the pages in the book.
3-D mammograms provide improved visibility of breast tissue, which may:
Low X-ray energy is used during the screening so radiation exposure is below the FDA guidelines and is the equivalent to current 2-D mammograms.
Guidelines are the same as for mammography in general: yearly mammograms starting at age 40. Women above age 40 (who have no symptoms) should have an annual mammogram. Screening with mammography should continue as long as the woman is in good health and is willing to undergo additional testing (including biopsy) if an abnormality is detected. Finally, if you are or may be at high risk for breast cancer, you should speak with your doctor to decide if additional screening tests might be right for you.
A 3-D mammogram is similar to a traditional mammogram. The technologist positions you, compresses your breast under a paddle and takes images from different angles.
The technologist reviews the images right at the workstation to ensure the images are adequate for the radiologist to review. Your results will be sent to your primary care physician or OB/GYN to discuss with you.
On the day of the exam, do not wear deodorant, talcum powder or lotion under your arms or on your breasts. Describe any breast symptoms or problems you may have to the technologist performing the exam. If possible, obtain prior mammograms and make them available to the radiologist at the time of the current exam.
At the MultiCare Rockwood Breast Health Center, there is no additional charge for 3-D mammography compared to 2-D mammograms. If the radiologic technician fee for a 3-D mammogram is not covered by your insurance, the cost is $65.
To schedule your 3-D screening mammogram, please call the MultiCare Rockwood Breast Health Center at 509-755-5801. A physician order is not necessary for a screening mammogram. For your convenience, early morning and Saturday appointments are available.
*Comparative data using 3-D and 2-D mammography to detect invasive cancer, breastcancer.org, June 2014.