Health Library

3D Mammography Uses

3D mammography (also termed as digital tomosynthesis, digital breast tomosynthesis, or just tomosynthesis) is a modern technology process that is mainly used to capture the three-dimensional picture of the breast via X-rays. The low-dose images captured from different angles across the breast are used to develop the 3D image. 3D mammography has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but isn’t yet labeled as a standard of care for breast cancer detection and screening. Since it’s comparatively new, it’s not available at all mammogram facilities. Still, the 3D mammography technology is being seen adopted faster in the United States with around 50% of the facilities in the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium are offering 3D mammograms for different cancer diagnostic cases.

Mammogram – For Cancer Detection & Avoiding False-Positive Results

Several studies discovered that 3D mammograms detect more kinds of cancers than traditional 2D mammograms and help avoid several false positives. A false positive occurs when the mammogram demonstrates an abnormal area that seems like cancer but turns out to be normal. Eventually, the news is good; there is no breast cancer. However, the suspicious area generally needs follow-up with more than one doctor, additional tests, and more procedures, and in some cases, a biopsy. There are physical, psychological, and economic costs associated with a false positive. The false positives rate has prompted the ongoing debate regarding the value of screening mammograms.

A study examining 3 years of data around breast cancer screening through 3D mammograms has revealed that the benefits of 3D mammograms are long-lasting.

Mammogram – As General Diagnostic Test

A mammogram can also be performed as a normal diagnostic test (diagnostic mammogram) for patients having the symptoms or signs of breast cancer, like:

  • A breast lump or a lump in the armpit (axillary mass)
  • Thickening or puffiness of a breast or part of a breast
  • Cellulite on the breast skin
  • A change in the shape or size of the breast
  • A sense of weight in one breast
  • Nipple retraction (pulling in of a nipple)
  • Nipple discharge
  • Breast pain
  • Redness, a rash, scaling, or irritation of the nipples or breasts (possible signs of inflammatory breast cancer or Paget’s disease of the breast)
  • Itchy breasts

It must be noted that a mammogram can be recommended for both men and women and that men may also develop breast cancer (though male breast cancer is quite less common than breast cancer in women).

Mammogram – For Screening & Diagnostic as a Separate Purpose

A mammogram can be separately used either for screening or diagnosing, as per the case.

Screening mammography

Screening mammography is the type of mammography that is used to spot breast changes in women having no obvious signs or symptoms or having new breast abnormalities. The objective is to determine cancer before clinical symptoms are noticeable.

Diagnostic mammography

Diagnostic mammography is the type of mammography to examine doubtful breast changes, like a new breast lump, a scarce skin appearance, breast pain, nipple clotting, or nipple discharge. It’s also used to assess irregular findings on a screening mammogram. A diagnostic mammogram entails extra mammogram images.

Mammography has demonstrated impressive results when it comes to early detection of breast cancer and its initial symptoms, but at the same time, false positives can lead to breast cancer overdiagnosis, needless breast cancer treatment, unwarranted psychological stress, and undue radiation exposure.

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