3D Mammograms

Topic: Why 3D Mammograms Are Essential for Women Over 40

For women with an average risk of breast cancer, 40 is the age when many medical professionals suggest they start discussing screening with their doctors.

The American Society of Breast Surgeons has now taken this one step further.

On Friday, they released an updated position statement, stating that women with average risk should have a mammogram yearly with advanced three-dimensional (3D) mammogram technology being the preferred option.

The older form of mammograms takes two images per breast with the assistance of X-ray technology. Experts say women get more benefit from the use of 3D mammograms, which take many more images.

“Imagine the breast as a thick book. A regular mammogram tries to see through all the pages by squishing it as thin as possible. A 3D mammogram looks one page at a time,” Dr. Deanna J. Attai, MD, an assistant clinical professor in the department of surgery at David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Healthline.

She explained that the benefit of a 3D mammogram, also known as tomosynthesis, has to do with how the images are processed.

“A standard 2D digital mammogram takes two views of the breast, compressing from top to bottom and from side to side. We then take those two 2D images and envision how it applies to the three-dimensional breast,” Attai said. “With 3D mammography, the same two views are taken. However, the images are processed in thin slices similar to a CT scan or MRI.”

Except for skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States.

The American Cancer Society estimates more than 268,000 new invasive cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed this year, and more than 40,000 women will die from breast cancer.

Mammograms are the best option currently available for screening for cancer in the breast.

“Screening mammograms have proven to decrease the number of deaths from breast cancer,” Dr. Onalisa Winblad, MD, a breast radiologist at the University of Kansas Cancer Center in Kansas City, told Healthline. “Screening mammograms provide the best chance of detecting breast cancers when they are small and treatable. If we detect breast cancers when they are small and early stage, not only are more lives saved from breast cancer death, but women are also able to undergo less extensive surgeries and system therapies,” Winblad said. “I recommend women have a screening mammogram every year beginning at age 40. This screening regimen saves the most lives.”

The Food and Drug Administration estimates there are slightly more than 5,000 certified facilitiesTrusted Source with 3D mammogram units. This equates to less than half of breast cancer screening facilities.

Dr. Stamatia Destounis, MD, a radiologist and committee member of the Public Information Committee of the Radiological Society of North America, said women who visit facilities with 3D mammograms available should opt for the newer technology.

Topic Discussed: Why 3D Mammograms Are Essential for Women Over 40

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