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What You Need to Know About 3D Mammograms

If you think about it, chances are you know of someone, be it family, friend or acquaintance who has battled breast cancer. You may even have a personal story of survival from the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. One in eight women in the U.S. has a chance of developing the disease, but it is also highly treatable with early detection. According to the American Cancer Society, regular screening tests or mammograms are the most effective way to detect any abnormalities that may indicate cancer. With Women’s Health month upon us, learn more about the available screening options.


For many years, the only mammogram option was a two-dimensional version. During this type of procedure, a picture is taken of the entire breast in two directions: from top-to-bottom and side-to-side. The 2D mammogram is the recommended standard in breast cancer screenings, but there is research showing about half of women getting annual 2D screenings over a 10-year period will have a false-positive finding at some point. When the breast gets compressed, it can cause the tissue to overlap, possibly reducing the reliability of the test to detect cancer.

A newer screening option uses three-dimensional technology to create a clearer image. Research suggests breast tomosynthesis, also known as 3D mammography, could be more reliable than 2D scans, with higher detection rates and fewer false alarms reported.

During a 3D procedure, the breast is compressed for multiple x-rays which are arranged into a three-dimensional picture. Although this innovation is not yet considered the standard of care for breast cancer screenings, it was certified as an option by the Food and Drug Administration in 2011. 3D mammography has initially resulted in 15 percent fewer women having to return for tests because of a suspicious finding.

Every year, more than a quarter of a million new cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed. Learning more about the best method for mammography could reduce the current “one size fits all” testing method and encourage more personalized recommendations. To determine what’s right for you, consult your health care provider. Depending on your health care coverage, 3D mammograms may be covered by your insurance plan.