When it comes to breast cancer, early detection is vital. That’s why Sharp Memorial Outpatient Pavilion is now offering an advanced screening option called tomosynthesis for a woman’s annual mammogram.
Tomosynthesis allows doctors to find abnormalities that can’t be seen on traditional mammograms, which produce a single, flattened image of the breast. The new technology, also known as "3-D mammography," reconstructs the breast in three dimensions, providing a layer-by-layer view of breast tissue.
Tomosynthesis is especially effective for women with dense breasts, which can hide cancers and other abnormalities behind less fatty tissue. Roughly 40 percent of U.S. women have dense breasts, and most don’t know it.
"This is one of the most exciting developments in mammography," said Dr. Christina Casteel, medical director of the Breast Health Center at Sharp Memorial Outpatient Pavilion. "Not only does it show us cancers we couldn’t see before, tomosynthesis also results in fewer false-positives and callbacks, leading to more peace of mind for women."
Nationwide, tomosynthesis is rapidly replacing traditional 2-D-only mammography, as studies show the technology can detect cancer at higher rates. It also produces 2-D exposures, which are required under the Federal Drug Administration’s approval of the new technology. Tomosynthesis does involve more radiation compared with standard mammograms, but the combined dose remains well under government guidelines.
Dr. Casteel and her team support the American Cancer Society’s recommendation that women should receive mammograms every year beginning at age 40. Women scheduled for a 3-D mammogram can expect a similar experience to a traditional screening. The breast is compressed, but no more than is needed during a standard mammogram. An X-ray arm on the machine makes a quick arc over the breast, taking a series of images at a number of angles. Both the 2-D and 3-D images are obtained simultaneously.
Women should expect to receive their screening mammography results by mail within a week.
For More Information
Tomosynthesis screenings take place inside Memorial Outpatient Pavilion's Outpatient Imaging Center, a designated Breast Imaging Center of Excellence. Women interested in receiving a 3-D mammogram should talk to their primary care physician or call the center at 858-939-5100.