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Not Your Mother’s Mammogram: New Technology, Improved Outcomes

October 9, 2018

Authored by Nathaniel Margolis, MD, Board Certified Radiologist and Director of Women’s Imaging, and Medical Director, Ray W. Moody M.D. Breast Center

Patient receiving a mammogram as part of her breast cancer risk assessment program at ORMC.

We have always known that mammograms are the best way to detect breast cancer early and save lives. But now we are looking at mammograms in a whole new way – in 3D.

Mammograms have come a long way since the “good ol’ days” of film X-rays. The mammogram images had to be taken on greenish-black films, hung on light boards, and stored in file folders that would burst at the seams from years’ worth of priors.

In the mid 2000s came digital mammography and PACS (Picture Archiving Computer Systems), a major advance that allowed mammogram images to be taken and stored electronically. However, the images themselves were essentially same 4 views as the film days.

Is 3D Mammography Better?

3D mammography, or digital breast tomosynthesis, is the latest advance in mammogram technology. Instead of taking only 4 images, the 3D mammogram acquires approximately 200. This enables the radiologist to scan through the tissue to find lurking tumors that would otherwise be missed by 2D mammograms.

The result?

Better detection of breast cancer

The result is a 40% increase in the ability to detect invasive breast cancer, when they are easily treatable. That, in turn, may help save lives from breast cancer.

Less “false alarms”

The chance of having a “false alarm” is less with 3D mammography. Literature demonstrates a 15% decrease in the number of call backs from screening for additional views. Not only can it detect more cancers, 3D mammography can differentiate cancers from overlapping normal tissue.

Pin-point accuracy for improved diagnosis

The clearer pictures also allow radiologists to pinpoint the location and extent of disease when a cancer is present.

Are There Risks to Using 3D Mammography?

There are very few, if any, drawbacks to this technology. When a 3D mammogram is performed, a standard 2D mammogram must be done at the same time so that an overview of the breast tissue can be assessed and compared to prior mammograms. In doing so, the radiation dose from the combined 3D and 2D mammograms is slightly higher than a digital 2D mammogram alone.

Lower Radiation with C-View Technology

To decrease radiation dose, we have a new tool called “C-view” that generates a 2D mammogram image from the 3D data, eliminating the need for 2 mammograms to be taken at once. This leads to a decrease in radiation dose by about half.

At the Orange Regional Breast Center, patients who have had a combination 3D + 2D mammogram in the past are now having the C-view technology, with lower radiation dose compared to other facilities that are offering traditional 3D mammography.

When Do Women Start Getting An Annual Mammography?

It is recommended than any woman over 40 years old should have a 3D mammogram annually, as long as she is in good health. Women who have dense breast tissue and/ or risk factors, such as strong family history, should consider supplemental screening breast ultrasound or MRI in addition to the 3D mammogram.

Now, almost all insurance carriers cover 3D mammography. All things considered, a 3D mammogram is a better mammogram.

How to Schedule Your Annual Mammogram

Ask your doctor about regular mammography exams. Call 845-333-7900 today to schedule your mammography at Orange Regional Medical Center.


Nate Margolis, MD, Medical Director of the Ray W. Moody, M.D. Breast Center.About Nathaniel Margolis, MD
Dr. Margolis is a Board Certified Radiologist and is the Director of Women’s Imaging as well as the Medical Director of the Ray W. Moody M.D. Breast Center at Orange Regional Medical Center. He received his medical degree from the New York University School of Medicine and received his Bachelor’s degree in biomedical science, as part of the school’s accelerated Bachelor’s degree/medical degree program, from the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education at the City College of New York. He attended the international exchange program at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City.

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