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3D Mammograms More Efficient At Detecting Breast Cancer

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Women with dense breasts can now have more assurance when it comes to detecting tumors – a 3D mammogram machine allows radiologists to better see breast tissue on X-rays.

Known as 3D digital breast tomosynthesis or 3D mammography, the procedure was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2011. This mammogram takes images of multiple slices of the breast at various angles, which are then put together to create a whole picture of the breast, says Dr. Monica Yepes, chief of breast imaging and associate professor of radiology at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at U-Health. She says,

It is like getting multiple views of an apple where you can actually examine each slice.

These 3D images section the breast off in thin slices so that small lesions can be better assessed. Comparatively, traditional 2D images only give pictures from above and the side. This new technology is extremely useful in early detection, especially with the new screening guidelines released by the American Cancer Society (ACS) last October, the Miami Herald reports.

The ACS guidelines encourage women with an average breast cancer risk to begin getting annual mammograms at 45 years old, as one in six breast cancers occur in women between 40-49 years old. The National Cancer Institute says that the median age at diagnosis is 62.

Women with a higher risk because of genetic factors should begin screening earlier and more often, the ACS recommends. Yepes says women with a strong family history of breast cancer may begin getting mammograms earlier than age 40 and may need additional testing like MRIs and ultrasounds.

When women reach the age of 55, they can get mammograms every other year, though women who prefer them yearly may continue to do so.

Now that 3D mammography has been added to the tools at women’s disposal, bigger improvements in detection are expected, medical experts note. Yepes says that studies have shown a 40%  increase in breast cancer detection using 3D technology, making it a highly promising piece of technology. “We expect it to become the standard of care in the future,” Yepes adds.



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