During a 3D mammogram, an X-ray arm sweeps in an arc over your breast, taking multiple low does images. Then, a computer produces a 3D image of your breast tissue in one millimeter slices, providing greater visibility for your radiologist to see breast detail like never before. The radiologist can then scroll through images of your entire breast like pages of a book, for clarity and insight never before possible. Here's a video to illustrate.
With conventional digital or 2D mammography, the radiologist can only view all the complexities of breast tissue in one, flat image. Sometimes breast tissue can overlap, giving the illusion of normal breast tissue while looking at an abnormal area, or potentially hiding a small cancer.
By looking at the breast tissue in slices, the radiologist can provide a more accurate reading. Multiple clinical studies show that 3D mammography finds 40% more invasive cancer missed with conventional mammography. Also, 3D mammography reduces the chance that your doctor will call you back for a "second look" because the breast tissue is viewed more clearly.
3D mammography is approved for all women who would be undergoing a standard mammogram.
A screening mammogram refers to your annual exam. Following the results of your screening exam, a radiologist may ask you to come back for another mammogram, this time called a diagnostic mammogram. A diagnostic mammogram rules out an unlear area or evaluates tissue that may look abnormal.
The American Cancer Society recommends the following breast health procedures:
Women over age 40 should have a mammogram every year. If there is a family history of breast cancer, regular mammograms may be advisable even sooner.
Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam every three years. This exam is part of a regular health exam. Beginning at age 40, women should have a clinical breast exam every year.
Women in their 20s should conduct breast self-exams each month.