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Three-dimensional (3-D) mammography

  • What is it?

    Allina Health now offers 3-D mammography at three Twin Cities' breast centers. Three-dimensional (3-D) mammography (also known as breast tomosynthesis) creates 3-D images of your breast using low-dose digital X-rays.

    How is a 2-D mammogram different than a 3-D mammogram?

    A 2-D (two-dimensional) mammogram is a standard mammogram. It creates flat images of your breast.

    Sometimes during a 2-D mammogram, the breast tissue can overlap while it is compressed. This can make the tissue look abnormal. If you have an abnormal mammogram, you will need to have more testing done.

    2-D mammograms are safe, accurate and provide reliable results.

    3-D mammograms eliminate breast tissue overlap. During the exam, the camera moves in an arc over your breast taking multiple 3-D images. This allows the radiologist to see the breast tissue in sharper images.

    How is 3-D mammography done?

    • You will be asked to remove your clothes from the waist up. You will be given a hospital gown or wrap to wear.
    • You will stand or sit (if you are in a wheelchair) in front of the X-ray machine.
    • The technologist will put one of your breasts on the platform. Your breast will be compressed between two panels for about 10 seconds. You will feel pressure.
    • The camera will move in an arc over your breast taking multiple images.
    • After the exam is completed, the technologist will review the images. He or she may have to do the X-rays again if they do not give a clear image of your breast tissue.

    If you choose to have a 3-D mammogram, it is done at the same time as your 2-D mammogram.

    What are the benefits?

    3-D mammography:

    • has a higher rate of finding cancer
    • decreases your chance of having to go back for more tests, which means fewer:
      • "false-positive" results (This means that there is an abnormal area but it isn't cancer.)
      • invasive testing procedures, such as a biopsy or surgery
    • can provide more detailed images of the breast if you have:
      • dense breast tissue
      • breast implants

    3-D mammography is an optional exam that anyone can have with a 2-D mammogram. It doesn't replace or take the place of a 2-D mammogram.

    What are the risks?

    You will have some radiation exposure from the X-ray during the exam. The level of radiation exposure is twice the amount of a 2-D mammogram, but still safely below the American College of Radiology guidelines.

    3-D mammography is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).


    Currently, Allina Health offers 3-D mammography at:

    Insurance coverage

    It is important to understand your health care benefits before your exam. Most insurance providers do not cover the cost of 3-D mammography. Please call your insurance provider to find out exactly what is and isn't covered under your plan, and how much you have to pay yourself.

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