Although no breast cancer screening test is perfect, 3D mammography is establishing itself as a superior examination to detect breast cancer when compared to conventional 2D mammography. The following five main points illustrate the specific advantages of 3D mammography as compared to conventional 2D mammography.
1. Fewer call backs.
A call back is when a woman is asked to return for additional imaging of the breast to further evaluate an abnormality seen on the screening mammogram. The additional imaging of the breast is referred to as diagnostic imaging. Although with 2D mammography less than 10% of women called back for additional imaging will have cancer, many women experience concern and anxiety when asked to return for additional imaging. Studies have shown that the call back rate with 3D mammography has been reduced by approximately 30% .
2. Fewer diagnostic images when a patient is called back equals less radiation exposure.
Studies have reported a decrease in the number of additional mammogram images obtained during a diagnostic mammogram examination following a 3D screening examination. Additionally, many patients called back may not require additional mammogram images to complete the evaluation. These patients are sent directly to breast ultrasound to further evaluate the abnormality noted on the screening 3D mammogram.
3. Higher cancer detection rate.
2D mammogram screening is currently the gold standard for breast cancer detection with studies showing that 2D mammography reduces the chance of death from breast cancer. However it is known that 2D mammography can miss up to 15-20% of cancers. Adding the 3D mammogram to the 2D mammogram detects approximately 30% more cancers than with 2D mammography alone.
4. Better screening exam for women with dense breast tissue.
Dense breast tissue can hide a developing cancer that would otherwise be visible on a screening mammogram in a patient with less glandular tissue and more fatty tissue. 3D mammography allows for the radiologist to see small segments of the breast at a time, more effectively finding a small breast cancer surrounded by dense glandular tissue. Fewer false positives (women called back for additional imaging who ultimately do not have cancer) and higher cancer detection rates have been shown with 3D mammography in women with dense breast tissue. Additionally, if you have received a letter notifying you of your dense breast tissue status, in most cases 3D mammography satisfies the recommendation for additional screening in women with dense breast tissue.
5. Improved visualization of architectural distortion.
Normal breast tissue has a flowing appearance due to the ligaments maintaining the architecture of the breast. When a cancer is growing (as well as a few non cancer diagnoses), the normal flowing appearance of the breast tissue is disrupted, resulting in what breast radiologists refer to as architectural distortion. Architectural distortion can be quite subtle, particularly on 2D mammography. According to a recent study 12-45% of missed breast cancers have been retrospectively noted to be areas of architectural distortion on the 2D screening exam. Approximately half of women who underwent surgery for architectural distortion were determined to have breast cancer. 3D mammography shows architectural distortion more clearly, including those not visible on 2D mammography.