3-D Mammography Increases Cancer Detection


Brenda BaumannBrenda Baumann, RN, MSN

Director of The Breast Center at St. David’s Medical Center


What is breast tomosynthesis or 3-D Mammography?

Breast tomosynthesis is the first and only FDA-approved 3-D digital technology that enables radiologists to see your breast in greater detail than traditional mammography. Breast tomosynthesis produces a 3-D image of your breast tissue in one-millimeter slices, allowing radiologists to see “inside” the breast, minimizing or eliminating ambiguity caused by overlapping tissue, common in women with dense breasts.

How do I qualify for a 3-D mammogram?

Breast tomosynthesis is available to all patients who are due for their annual screening mammogram. Detection benefits have been demonstrated in all types of breast tissue. Diagnostic exams may also be performed with a physician`s order.

What is the cost?

The Breast Center at St. David’s Medical Center will bill your insurance company for the 3-D mammogram and it will be the same cost as a screening mammogram.  There may be an additional $80 radiologist interpretation fee due to the larger volume of images to review.

Will I be exposed to more radiation?

The amount of radiation is below the safety standards set forth by the government, and the benefit greatly outweighs any radiation exposure risk. The amount of radiation from a 3-D mammogram is slightly higher than digital mammography and roughly equal to the radiation exposure of traditional mammography on film.

What are the benefits?

In the June 25, 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a groundbreaking study was published that found 3-D mammography  screening technology significantly increased cancer detection while simultaneously reducing the number of false positives.

The study, “Breast Cancer Screening Using Tomosynthesis in Combination with Digital Mammography,” reviewed close to half a million mammography exams, and was led by Sarah M. Friedewald, MD of the Caldwell Breast Center, Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois.1

Researchers found that 3-D mammography finds significantly more invasive cancers than a traditional 2-D mammogram. According to the study’s results, 3-D mammography also reduces the number of women called back for unnecessary screenings due to false alarms, thereby reducing anxiety AND health care costs.

Other significant findings include:

  • A 41% increase in the detection of invasive breast cancers
  • A 29% increase in the detection of all breast cancers
  • A 15% decrease in women recalled for additional imaging
  • A 49% increase in Positive Predictive Value (PPV) for a recall
  • A 21% increase in PPV for biopsy which reflected a higher yield in malignancy in women who underwent biopsy after the 3-D mammography
  • No significant change in the detection of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)

This study used Hologic 3-D mammography systems and involved 13 U.S. breast screening sites and 139 radiologists.

You may also click here to see JAMA’s full study.


1 Friedewald SM, Rafferty EA, Rose SL, Durand MA, Plecha DM, Greenberg JS, Hayes MK, Copit DS, Carlson KL, Cink TM, Barke LD, Greer LN, Miller DP, Conant EF, Breast Cancer Screening Using Tomosynthesis in Combination with Digital Mammography, JAMA June 25, 2014.

The Breast Center at St. David’s Medical Center is committed to early identification and the fight against breast cancer. The Breast Center provides 3-D mammography, the latest in breast screening technology. If you would like to schedule a mammogram, or if you have questions about this important breast health procedure, please call 512.544.8800.

Seton Breast Care Center  also offers 3-D mammography.  If you would like to schedule a mammogram or any of their other services, please call 512.324.1025.

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