3D Mammography

The Women’s Center is offering a “New Dimension for Imaging”


Washington Health System Women’s Center is the first in Washington County to offer 3D Mammography. Tomosynthesis or 3D Mammography is a new cutting-edge screening tool for breast cancer.


What is 3D mammography?
3D mammography allows doctors to examine breast tissue one layer at a time.  It uses high-powered computing to convert digital breast imaging into a stack of very thin layers, or slices, building what is essentially a three dimensional mammogram.


What is the difference between 3D mammography and conventional digital mammography?
Conventional digital mammography is still one of the most advanced technologies available for diagnosis of breast cancer; however, it shows all the breast tissue at a glance where one feature can hide in the shadow of another.  3D eliminates or reduces the superimposing shadow and a radiologist can see and search through the breast in 1mm layers, almost like turning pages in a book.  This makes it easier to determine if there’s any cause for concern, and decrease the chance for a tumor to hide behind overlapping tissue.  3D does not eliminate being called back, however it greatly decreases the chances of being called back for additional imaging, because all of the breast tissue can be seen more clearly.


Will my insurance pay for a 3D mammogram?
Because this technology is so new, 3D mammography may not be covered by your insurance.  Please call your individual insurance company prior to your appointment to verify your individual coverage plan.


Who should get a 3D Mammogram?
3D is approved for all women who would undergo the annual screening or diagnostic mammogram.  It is helpful for all women, regardless of their breast density.


What happens during the exam?
Currently, 3D mammography complements, but does not replace, the standard two-dimensional digital mammogram and it only takes a few more seconds for each view.  Both mammograms are done at the same time, using the same compression and mammography system.  The X-ray mammography machine sweeps over the breast from one side to the other in a slight arch motion and a series of digital images are obtained and processed to generate the 3D images.


Are there any risks?
Just as with conventional mammography, 3D mammography uses very low doses of X-rays.  The total radiation dose is similar to a conventional digital mammogram and is safely below the guidelines approved by the American College of Radiology.


Do I need a physician referral for a 3D mammogram?
You will need a referral/script from your physician to schedule your digital screening or diagnostic mammogram, but your doctor does not have to specifically order the 3D mammogram.  If you are interested in having a 3D mammogram, please notify the scheduler when you call to make an appointment.  The appointment must be scheduled as a 3D mammogram to provide appropriate resources.