What is 3D Tomosynthesis Mammography?

Tomosynthesis or 3D mammography is a new kind of digital x-ray mammogram that makes 3D- and 2D-like pictures of the breasts. This tool enhances the ability of mammography to spot early breast cancers and lowers the number of women called back for added tests for findings, which aren’t cancers.

Types of Mammography

There are two types of mammography which are Full Field Digital Mammography and 3 Dimensional Mammography, but this article will be focusing on 3D Tomosynthesis Mammography. 3D mammography, also known as “Digital Breast Tomosynthesis,” is a recommended process that uses an electronic detector system to produce multiple synthesized images of a thin layer of the breasts.

In Tomosynthesis, the x-rays are being transferred into a high-resolution computerized monitor that allows the images to be viewed in a more narrow-angle. It enables the radiologist to examine digital images for comparison by laying one set of breast images over another. Tomosynthesis mammography produces 3-dimensional images of the breast. Usually, the images are composed of different structures such as fat, milk ducts, blood vessels, connective tissues, from various regions in the breast.

Tomosynthesis acquires different angles with the help of sophisticated digital x-ray machinery. It also requires a paddle to compress the breast to secure it from unwanted motion. It mitigates the radiation and allows penetrating the breast tissue. When Tomosynthesis is added to digital mammography, it reveals an additional 1 to 2 cancers in every thousand women examined in the previous screening.

Another study indicated that 2.5 percent of 1000 women ranging from 40-49 years of age have dense breast. Compared to conventional mammography, three-dimensional Tomosynthesis minimizes the numbers of errors that require additional screening or “callback” from imaging to ensure that there are no abnormalities.

This additional screening includes diagnosis with mammographic or ultrasound imaging. It represents that 95% of call back areas are healthy and without overlapping tissue or adverse changes like the occurrence of cysts.

All mammograms use x-ray technology, and thick tissues absorb more radiation than fatty ones. Some suspicious breast tumor areas are concealed or hidden by overlapping breast tissue, and a hidden cancer on a 2-dimensional mammography can appear in 3D mammography. Compared to 2D (standard type) mammography, 3D Tomosynthesis shows 50% more cancers present in a woman’s breast and greatly reduces false positives as well.

3D Tomosynthesis is a “gold standard” in breast screening mammography. Always ask your imaging facility if they use 3-D Tomosynthesis.

What to Expect from a 3D Tomosynthesis Exam

A tomosynthesis exam might be utilized as a screening tool in conjunction with conventional 2D digital mammography. As with a digital mammogram, your radiologist will take images from various angles.

During the 3D tomosynthesis part of the exam, the X-ray arm of the mammography machine makes a fast arc over the breast. It will take a set of breast images at several angles. The entire process will take at least the same amount of time as that of a conventional digital mammogram, and the patient experience is very much the same.

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