3-D Mammography Provides Peace of Mind

February 14, 2017

When it comes to breast cancer, women shouldn’t leave anything to chance. That’s why a growing number are choosing three-dimensional mammograms, which are offered at Mercy Imaging Services – Carthage.

Recent advancements in test methods such as 3D mammography can help all patients, but especially those with dense breast tissue or a family history of breast cancer. Also known as tomosynthesis, 3D mammography was approved by the Federal Drug Administration in 2011.

3D mammography, which was introduced in Carthage in September 2015, entails taking several images of each breast. A radiologist can view the images much like flipping through pages in a book. Any anomalies picked up by the computer or the radiologist are flagged for further review.

“Images from 3D mammography will show many things that are harder to find in a traditional two-dimensional mammogram, such as cysts and masses that may or may not be cancer and may find them much earlier,” said Janie Breckenridge, a mammography technologist at Mercy Imaging Services – Carthage.

The 3D procedure is similar to 2D mammography. The difference is that a 3D mammogram lasts about 20 seconds longer and takes several pictures of each breast. Roughly 40 pictures are combined to form a 3D image.

“The women who have the 3D mammogram find the experience to be no more uncomfortable than a regular mammogram,” Breckenridge said.

A 3D mammogram is recommended for women with dense breast tissue, which is required by state law to be indicated on mammography results. “For women with dense breasts, it’s like dropping a marble into a jar of cotton balls and trying to find it,” Breckenridge said, “not to mention getting all of the marble’s detail.”

In fact, she believes the procedure can be beneficial for most women. “Things can hide even in tissue that isn’t dense,” she said.
A 3D mammogram also can give radiologists a clearer view for patients who’ve had surgery on their breasts or previous radiation treatments.

“Once a woman has had breast cancer and has been through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, every mammogram after that is a scary thing,” she said. “They have a peace of mind that a 3D mammogram might find something that could be hidden otherwise.”
Jason Young, manager of Mercy Imaging Services – Carthage, indicated that patients shouldn’t be concerned about increased radiation with 3D mammography.

“The difference in dosage between 2D and 3D is virtually the same,” Young said. “3D images are lower-dose pictures of a breast.”

While a primary care provider referral is recommended, women can self-refer to have a 3D mammogram. Most insurance providers cover 2D mammograms, but may not fully cover a 3D mammogram, which is an additional $55. “It’s very well worth it,” Breckenridge said.

Young emphasized that any woman in need of a mammogram who cannot afford one should ask about financial help. The McCune-Brooks Healthcare Foundation has limited funds available for women in those circumstances.

Mammogram appointments are available every 30 minutes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and until 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

For more information, contact Mercy Imaging Services – Carthage, 3125 Dr. Russell Smith Way, at Mercy Hospital Carthage on the McCune-Brooks Campus at 417-359-1320.

Shelby Hawkins, a registered radiologic technologist with Mercy Imaging Services – Carthage, prepares a three-dimensional mammography unit for the next patient.
Shelby Hawkins, a registered radiologic technologist with Mercy Imaging Services – Carthage, prepares a three-dimensional mammography unit for the next patient.