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How breast cancer screening is more reliable and accurate

By The Health News Team | October 21, 2022
Mammogram technology

Advancements in breast cancer screening continue to evolve. Mammogram technology now offers earlier, more reliable and accurate detection of cancer. And digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT), also known as 3D mammography, is emerging as the gold standard in mammography.

However, just 69% of women age 40 and over have had a mammogram in the past two years. According to Dr. Anastasia Cruz, a diagnostic radiologist affiliated with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, the goal of mammograms is to detect cancer in early stages when treatment is most effective and less harmful.

“There are certain risk factors that raise a woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer,” Dr. Cruz says. “However, 75% of those diagnosed with breast cancer have no identifiable risk factor.”

This makes regular breast cancer screening vital. “Annual screening mammograms should begin at age 40,” says Dr. Cruz.

Here, Dr. Cruz answers five common questions about getting your mammogram:

  1. What’s new in mammogram technology?
    DBT, also known as 3D mammography, is emerging as the new gold standard in mammography. A series of images at different angles are taken while the breast is compressed — pressure is applied to flatten the breast tissue — to create a clearer view of the breast by reducing overlapping breast tissue and adding detail that can be missed on standard 2D mammograms.

  2. What are the benefits of 3D mammography?
    Research has shown that 3D mammograms result in decreased callbacks for additional images after a screening mammogram. Additionally, the detection of smaller cancers is increased and the likelihood of detecting cancer — if more than one site of cancer is present — is improved.
    These benefits are true for all women with different types of breast tissue density. However, these features are especially helpful in women with dense breasts, where there is more dense breast tissue to overlap on standard 2D imaging.

  3. How long does a typical mammogram take?
    Each breast is compressed in two directions so that a total of four images can be taken. Compression for each view lasts between 5 and 40 seconds. Compression is important to see subtle findings and to spread out breast tissue to reduce overlap.

  4. Why is it best not to delay your screening mammogram?
    Mammograms are a great screening tool to detect cancers when they are small and before they can be felt during breast self-exams. This allows for detection at an earlier stage and when the cancer is more likely to be curable. When breast cancer is found early, it is highly curable. In fact, if detected early, 98% of breast cancer patients survive.

  5. How can you make your mammogram as comfortable as possible?
    Be sure to communicate with your technologist throughout the exam. Explain if you have any physical restrictions, such as frozen shoulder or limited mobility.

Compression is important to obtain good, quality images and see subtle findings. The technologist can add the compression slowly, to a level that you can comfortably tolerate. Try to remind yourself that compression will last only seconds.

“Don't delay your mammogram just because you don't have a family history or don't feel anything abnormal,” says Dr. Cruz. “A mammogram can find cancer when it's small, in early stages and treatable.”

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