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3-D mammograms make a big difference in cancer detection

Nov. 5, 2018—Three-dimensional mammography finds 34 percent more cancerous breast tumors than traditional mammography, a new study shows. The Swedish study tracked 15,000 women for five years, screened either with newer 3-D mammograms or standard ones. Most of the tumors 3-D mammograms found turned out to be invasive cancers.

Still, 3-D mammograms had a slightly higher call-back rate. More testing was needed to evaluate a suspicious finding that may or may not have been a false alarm. A key reason: Overall, 3-D mammograms pick up more structures in the breast than conventional ones, the researchers said.

3-D vs. standard

A traditional mammogram is two dimensional. Two x-ray images are taken of the breast—from top to bottom and from side to side—while the breast is compressed. That compression is necessary for imaging, but it may cause overlapped breast issue. If so, abnormal tissue can be hidden. And superimposed normal tissue can appear abnormal.

During a 3-D mammogram, the x-ray tube moves in an arc over the compressed breast, capturing multiple images of the breast from different angles. A computer then reconstructs these images into a 3-D image. This enhanced image minimizes the tissue overlap that can conceal tumors and make it hard to distinguish normal tissue from tumors.

But while 3-D mammograms are an advanced form of breast imaging, they are not available everywhere.

Steps for a successful mammogram

Whether it's 3-D or not, these tips can ensure that your next mammogram goes well.

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