3-D and Digital Mammography

Mammography is the single most effective method to detect breast changes long before physical symptoms can be seen or felt. As women age, their risk of breast cancer increases. For most women, high-quality mammography screening should begin at age 40. As risk factors vary in everyone, each woman and her doctor should discuss the plan that's right for her. Most organizations recommend mammography screening every year. Screening should continue throughout a woman's lifetime.

3-D mammography, an exciting new technology in the detection of breast cancer

In addition to two digital Hologic Selenia mammography units, digital breast tomosynthesis, also referred to as 3-D mammography, is also available at St. Mary’s. This new screening and diagnostic tool allows the radiologist to see breast tissue with an increased level of detail.

During the exam, the X-ray arm sweeps in a slight arc over the breast, taking multiple images. Then a computer produces a 3-D image of the breast tissue in one-millimeter slices. Conventional digital mammography shows all the complexities of breast tissue in one flat image. Sometimes tissue can overlap, giving the illusion of an abnormal area. With the use of 3-D mammography, often recommended for women with very dense breast tissue, the radiologist can provide a more confident, accurate assessment, resulting in fewer call-backs and false positives.

Radiologist and computer aided detection review

Every screening mammogram is examined by a board-certified radiologist and is also scanned by our computer aided detection (CAD) system called the ImageChecker®. The CAD system marks any area of the mammogram image that appears different from the surrounding tissue. A radiologist consults the CAD image as a double check, closely examining any areas flagged. While many of the CAD's flagged areas turn out to be negative, the system can help radiologists identify suspicious tissue that otherwise may not be detected.

All mammography technologies and equipment in the Wilma B. Bacon Mammography Center are licensed and certified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the standards established by the Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA) and the American College of Radiology.

It should be noted that in addition to the use of mammography, health care providers should also examine a woman's breasts by performing clinical breast examinations (CBE) as part of routine health care to search for any abnormalities that may be missed by a mammogram. Breast self-examination (BSE) may alert a woman to any changes in her breasts, but it is not a substitute for mammography screening. The value of BSE is that it helps a woman become familiar with how her breasts normally feel and to recognize any changes.