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Three-dimensional (3-D) mammography

  • What is 3-D mammography?

    3-D mammogram images

    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 can decrease breast tissue overlap. During the exam, the camera moves in an arc over your breast taking multiple 3-D 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.

    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 or breast implants

    What are the risks?

    You will have some radiation exposure from the X-ray during the exam. However, the level of radiation exposure is safely below the American College of Radiology guidelines.

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

    Insurance coverage

    It is important to understand your health care benefits before your exam. Some 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.