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What is the difference between a 2D and a 3D Mammogram?

A mammogram is a revolutionary procedure to detect breast cancer in the earliest stages. It is very helpful in finding out the tumors before they grow big enough to spread further. A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast and used for routine screening and monitoring of the breasts during breast cancer treatment. With time, the mammogram has evolved to its improved forms; from 2D mammogram to more effective 3D mammogram. Though both 2D and 3D mammograms are used for a similar purpose; detecting and diagnosing breast cancer, there are certain differences between the two. This article highlights the difference between a 2D and a 3D mammogram.

2D Mammogram Vs. 3D Mammogram – The Process

In 2D mammography, a patient is in the standing position while a radiologist positions her breast on a small plate. A clear plate is pressed down on a breast while pictures are taken. The same process is followed for another breast. In 2D mammography, various X-rays are combined to generate 2-dimensional pictures of the breast. These images are recorded digitally, which makes it easier for the radiologists, surgeons, and doctors to review them. The digital images, being able to be enlarged, darkened or lightened, enables a closer and clearer inspection.

On the other hand, a 3D mammography is an advance form of digital mammography. The 3D mammogram is often called a breast tomosynthesis. In this process, the X-ray machines capture pictures of the thin slices of the breast at different angles from the sides and top of the breast. These pictures are reformed into 3D images by computer software.

2D Mammogram Vs. 3D Mammogram – The Duration

There’s no significant difference in terms of duration or physical discomfort. Both are comfortable processes, though the 3D mammogram does take a few seconds longer.

2D Mammogram Vs. 3D Mammogram – The Availability

3D mammography is more technologically advanced than 2D mammography and might not be available at all mammogram facilities. Moreover, 3D mammograms may cost a bit more. Some insurers don’t cover 3-D mammograms, while some do this test at different prices.

2D Mammogram Vs. 3D Mammogram – The Accuracy

In the 3D mammogram process, the radiologist scrolls through images of breast tissue only one layer at a time. This helps in finding abnormalities easily. Since they offer more detail, 3D images decrease the false-positive rate. Hence, it’s less likely that you’ll have to return for the second mammogram or have more testing. That also helps cut down on the patient’s stress and anxiety level.

3-D mammography has a higher cancer detection rate than 2D mammography; thus, is more accurate than 2D. If your surgeon informs that you have dense breast tissue, it implies you have more glandular tissue than fatty tissue. Fatty tissue comes in gray on a mammogram. Glandular tissue comes in white on a mammogram, but so does cancer. Through 3D mammography, it is easier for the radiologist to spot the difference between glandular tissue and cancer, lessening the possibilities of a false positive and the need for more testing.

The verdict

A 3D mammogram might be costlier than a 2D mammogram; however, considering the accuracy in outcomes, a 3D mammogram enjoys an edge over 2D.

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