Ask The Doc - 3D Mammography

Monday, October 27, 2014

Dr. Patrick McWeyQuestion: I’ve been reading a lot about 3D Mammography lately. What is it and is it really better than traditional mammograms?

By Dr. Patrick McWey, Medical Director of Breast Imaging, Columbia St. Mary’s

 Breast cancer remains a major health concern in our country, with women facing a 1-in-8 lifetime risk for the disease. Fortunately, thanks to increased awareness, early detection and improved treatment, most women survive.

When it comes to successfully fighting breast cancer, early detection is and always has been a woman’s best weapon. Early detection is facilitated by women being aware of their breast health, being aware of early warning signs and reporting any such symptoms, such as a lump or nipple discharge, to their physician.

An annual physical exam, including a mammogram, by a healthcare professional is also vitally important. The American Cancer Society, American College of Radiology and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend women begin receiving an annual mammogram at age 40.

While mammography is not perfect and can’t detect all breast cancers, it plays a major role in screening and decreasing mortality from breast cancer. The quality of mammography has improved over time through technologic advances such as moving from film screen to digital. Columbia St. Mary’s was the first institution in Wisconsin to have full-field digital mammography at the Van Dyke Haebler Center for Women’s Imaging.

While digital mammography was a significant advancement, today there is a new, even better technology: tomosynthesis, or 3D mammography.

3D mammography shows even greater sensitivity and specificity compared to standard 2D digital mammography. A study published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) looked at 454,850 breast screening examinations and found 3D mammography detects 41 percent more invasive breast cancer and decreases the rate of false positives by up to 40 percent. This means cancer is caught earlier and patients often require less treatment and therefore experience fewer side-effects – to say nothing of the reduction in stress and anxiety for women who were forced to undergo unnecessary follow-up exams after a false positive.

These improvements are accomplished because 3D mammography allows the radiologist to view multiple slices through the breasts as thin as 1 mm. This eliminates the overlapping of dense breast tissue that can obscure a significant finding or, in some cases, give the false impression of an abnormality when none is present.

From the patient’s perspective, the 3D mammogram is performed similarly to the standard 2D mammogram. The exam requires compression and the exposure is obtained with the patient holding her breath to decrease movement. The X-ray tube moves through a 15-degree arc during a four-second exposure obtaining 15 projection images. The numerous images are then reconstructed and presented to the radiologist for interpretation.

Thanks to the foresight and commitment of Columbia St. Mary’s, and with the assistance of the Columbia St. Mary’s Foundation and the generosity of its donors, we’re excited to announce that this new technology is now available to all Columbia St. Mary’s patients at no extra charge

3D mammography units are available at CSM Hospital Milwaukee, CSM Hospital Ozaukee, River Woods Outpatient Center in Glendale, Gateway Medical Clinic in West Allis, Marsho Family Medical Group – Sheboygan and our unique mobile mammography coach, which serves many of our clinics and underserved patients in rural and inner-city areas.

“A Passion For Patient Care” has long been the motto of Columbia St. Mary’s. It’s not just words – it’s a philosophy we all take to heart that is exemplified everyday by the numerous professionals who provide the exceptional level of care our patients deserve. From technologists, physical therapists and nurses to dedicated breast radiologists, pathologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists and medical oncologists, the cancer caretakers at Columbia St. Mary’s work together to provide the best care possible.

Columbia St. Mary’s has been a leader in breast care in southeastern Wisconsin for decades, and the introduction of 3D mammography ensures we will continue to be for decades to come.

Click here to schedule your 3D mammography online.

This article appeared in the October 31 issue of The Ozaukee News Graphic.  



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