New Research Highlights Benefits of 3D Mammography

Tech with patientWhen it comes to our health, more information is better. That’s why we use 3D mammography at Ella Health. This exam takes just seconds longer than a conventional mammogram, but it provides more data.

Several large studies have already shown that the exam is better at detecting cancer and reducing the need for follow-up tests, but doctors want to know even more about this exam. Among the questions is whether it’s better for women with dense breasts. That was the subject of a study featured in a recent letter that appeared in the Journal of American Medicine.

3D and Dense Breasts

This study looked at how 3D mammograms performed with women who have dense breasts compared to those who do not. Breast density is determined by the amount of fibrous or glandulous tissue compared to fat. The level of density varies from woman to woman and can change with age. It can be more difficult to detect cancer in women who have dense breasts.

The new study found that  using 3D technology, also known as tomosynthesis, significantly improved the rates of detecting cancer while reducing recall rates for both women with dense and non-dense breast tissue. This is what’s been seen in other studies. This one, however, showed that women with dense breast tissue benefited the most. In fact, 3D increased the detection of invasive cancers by 50% for these women while simultaneously reducing the recall rate by 14%.

Study Conclusion

The study is an indication of just how good 3D mammography is, said Researcher Elizabeth Rafferty, M.D., who has led other studies on the technology.  She talked about the research in an interview with

“Clinicians and patients should know that the data is clear that screening mammography saves lives, and over the years, patient outcomes have improved as we improved our imaging techniques.

Tomosynthesis now represents the state of the art in mammography technology.  As a clinician recommending a mammogram for your patient or as a woman choosing a mammogram for yourself, optimally you would want the mammogram with the best performance–today that is breast tomosynthesis.”

A 3D mammogram is different than a conventional exam because the machine moves around the breast in an arc. Rather than just having pictures of the breast from top to bottom and side to side, it takes multiple pictures that are compiled into a model. It’s like being able to open a book and page through it. When a doctor sees something suspicious on an image, she can look at what is happening around the area to more easily determine whether it could be cancer or whether it’s nothing to be concerned about. For the women who have this exam, that means greater peace of mind.

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