A New Tool for Breast Cancer Screening

The cornerstone of early breast cancer detection is mammography. By introducing digital tomosynthesis, Women’s Imaging at Diagnostic Imaging Services has taken a giant step forward in mammography. Digital tomosynthesis is a 3-D imaging platform that takes a slice-by-slice approach to detecting breast cancer.

“It can be thought of as similar to a CT scan of the breast,” explains Kerri Hesley, M.D., medical director of Women’s Imaging and Meritus Health’s Center for Breast Health.

Conventional mammography takes two x-rays of each breast: from the top and side angles. When viewing images of the breast, radiologists look for white, irregular areas—a possible indicator of breast cancer.

“With conventional mammography, I might see a questionable area because I’m looking all the way through overlapping breast tissue,” explains Dr. Hesley. “But using 3-D images, I can incrementally look behind each structure—kind of like peeling an onion.”

With digital tomosynthesis, positioning of a woman’s breast is the same as before, but an arcing scan takes multiple low-dose pictures of each breast from many angles. A computer program organizes the images into a detailed picture of the breast.

Radiologists can see better using 3-D images and that translates to a decrease in false-positives or call-backs. “It’s especially beneficial for patients with dense breasts,” explains Dr. Hesley.

Advantages of 3-D mammography:

  • Fewer call backs which means less stress, cost and radiation incurred by the patient
  • Clearer images of dense breast tissue
  • Higher sensitivity to smaller or multiple tumors

“If women do need to come back because of something suspicious, they can often go straight to ultrasound without needing more digital images,” says Dr. Hesley.

Digital tomosynthesis adds value to women’s breast care by providing better detection and decreasing anxiety associated with mammograms. Medicare and some insurance plans cover the cost of digital tomosynthesis, however, if your plan does not include this advanced mammography, DIS offers the service for a $50 fee.

If you’re due for an annual mammogram, consider digital tomosynthesis for your next breast screening. Call Women’s Imaging at 301-714-4200 for more information.