How 3D Mammography is Beneficial Over Film Mammography for Identifying Breast Cancer

Breast cancer has become the second leading cause of death for women in the United States, the first being skin cancer. However, the country has seen a significant reduction in breast cancer deaths over the last two decades. Many experts believe this is due to the enhanced screening and advanced treatment methods that have become commonplace in doctors offices around the country. Today, with the advent of 3D mammography technology, doctors can easily identify breast cancer in its early stages.For many years, mammograms, which are conducted using mammography devices developed by mammography machine manufacturers, have played a significant role in the diagnosing of breast cancer at an early stage. These mammography machines use x-rays to conduct breast scanning, which the doctors then use to detect cancer. These x-rays are captured directly to film, just like any other x-ray you might receive.However, for that past several years, traditional film mammograms have begun to be replaced. In fact, as of October 2015, over 95% of accredited mammography machines in the US were digital and 3D mammography devices. While traditional mammograms stored breast images on film, 3D mammography uses computers to store and examine the images.Not only is this a huge benefit for the doctors and radiologists who manage the machines and images but also for the patient. By storing the images on a computer, it’s much easier for patients to transfer their x-ray images between offices in order to obtain second opinions. Computers also allow digital enhancement of the x-ray photos so that doctors can better identify potential cancer by adjusting contrast and density with computer software. This also helps to prevent retakes, thus limiting patient exposure to potentially harmful radiation.All mammograms, whether they use 3D mammography techniques or traditional film methods, work by sending x-rays through the breast tissue to obtain images. These pictures are then analyzed for abnormalities and assessed for changes from previous screenings. However, the patient experience is the same no matter if the doctor performs a film, digital or 3D mammogram.In all types of mammography, the breast is needed to be compressed before the images are taken. Two special plates are used by the doctor to compress or flatten the breast before they use x-rays. The test also takes the same time, about 20 minutes, no matter which type of mammogram technology is used.X-rays have been used to diagnose lethal breast cancer for almost 100 years. However, it was not before 1969 that film mammograms were first used to image the breasts. Since the introduction of digital and 3D mammography techniques, x-rays are converted into electric signals, which could be recorded in a computer. All methods of mammography have shown their potential over time. However, some studies have suggested that film mammograms may miss cases of breast cancer between 15-20%.On the other hand, 3D mammograms have proven to be an efficient alternative for women age 50 and below, those with dense breasts and those who have not yet experienced menopause. Several studies have shown that that combination of 3D and 2D mammography was more accurate than 2D digital or film mammograms alone, although the difference in accuracy was tiny for each patient. Just as importantly, women who underwent a screening that combined both 3D and 3D mammography are less likely to be called back for additional testing due to suspicious findings that turn out to be non-cancerous. This means fewer false positives.In summary, the benefits of 3D mammography are improved interpretation of breast images, ability to manipulate images using computer software, lower radiation dose, easy storage of images and easier transfer to other healthcare providers for second opinions. Do you have questions about 3D mammography techniques or would you like to book a breast cancer screening? Contact Steinberg Diagnostic Medical Center today.

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