Sponsored Content: Mammography Now in 3D

This content in this post is sponsored by Massachusetts General Hospital.

If you’ve had a mammogram, you know that the minute or so of discomfort you experience is well worth the relief when you get “normal” results. Yearly screening mammograms have led to a significant and substantial decrease in the death rate from breast cancer, as evidenced by numerous clinical trials.

Mammography, however, is not perfect. It’s major limitation is that it produces a two-dimensional image of the breast. One of the most frequently asked questions is, “Why do they have to compress the breast?” The answer is that compression is an effort to reduce tissue overlap and help the radiologist to see the entire breast in that flat image.

Even with compression on a standard mammogram, overlapping tissue can hide potentially concerning findings and can also make normal structures look like possible abnormalities. Some women who have standard mammograms receive a “callback” for additional imaging. Whether that follow-up appointment involves a close-up mammogram view or an ultrasound exam, the callback causes anxiety and expense.

Mass General Imaging offers a new type of mammography called breast tomosynthesis (3D mammography). Breast tomosynthesis builds upon the success of conventional digital mammography by minimizing the impact of overlapping breast tissue during imaging. Instead of just one exposure, the machine moves in an arc over the breast and takes a series of low-dose pictures. Computer processing reconstructs the multiple images into a 3D format similar to a movie. A specially trained radiologist can then scroll through the 3D study, looking specifically at each area of the breast.

Breast tomosynthesis doesn’t feel different compared to a conventional mammogram. The breast is still compressed. In fact, the machine produces a standard 2D mammogram and the 3D view at the same time. The 3D portion adds only about 4 seconds to the exam.

Another question often raised is whether these additional images expose the woman to more radiation. Adding tomosynthesis does involve a minimal amount of additional radiation, comparable to having an additional standard mammogram. However, the total radiation dose for the combined exam at Mass General Imaging (standard mammogram plus tomosynthesis at the same time) remains under the FDA-regulated limit, which has been established to be safe, for a single conventional mammogram. And the benefit is that fewer women are unnecessarily called back for additional imaging while, at the same time more cancers are diagnosed earlier with the opportunity to save more lives.

If you are wondering if breast tomosynthesis is right for you, know that it is approved by the FDA for all women who would be undergoing a standard mammogram, in both the screening and diagnostic setting.

Mass General Imaging pioneered this leading-edge technology, and offers it at the Boston, Chelmsford, Waltham, and Worcester locations.

To schedule your appointment for breast tomosynthesis, call 888-90-MAMMO, or visit 3Dmammo.org.