Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): 3D Mammogram

What is a 3D mammography breast exam (tomosynthesis)?

3D mammography is a revolutionary new screening and diagnostic tool designed for early breast cancer detection that can be done in conjunction with a traditional 2D mammogram in the same setting. During the 3D part of the exam, the X-ray arm sweeps in a slight arc over the breast, taking multiple breast images. Then a computer produces a 3D image of your breast tissue in one millimeter slices, providing greater visibility for the radiologist to see breast detail in a way never before possible. The radiologists can scroll through images of the entire breast like pages of a book.

Why is there a need for 3D mammography breast exams? What are the benefits?

With conventional digital mammography, the radiologist is viewing all the breast tissue in one flat image. Sometimes breast tissue can overlap, giving the illusion that normal breast tissue looks like an abnormal area. By looking at the breast tissue in one millimeter slices, the radiologist can provide a more confident assessment. In this way, 3D mammography finds cancers that might be missed with conventional 2D mammography. It also means there is less of a chance your doctor will call you back unnecessarily.

What should I expect during the 3D mammography exam?

3D mammography complements standard 2D mammography and is performed at the same time with the same system in the same room. Compression is used, but no additional compression is required compared to a traditional mammogram. It only takes a few more seconds for each view. You will notice that the machine moves during the 3D images.

Is the radiation dose higher?

Very low dose X-ray is used during the exam. The dose is slightly higher than a 2D digital mammogram, but the dose is well below the FDA limit for mammography and about the same as a traditional film mammogram.

Will my insurance company pay for it? Why not?

No. As with many new technologies, insurance does not yet pay for this new exam. They consider it experimental at this point, despite many large studies showing an increase in accuracy when mammography is performed with 3D over 2D alone.

How much does the service cost?

It is $50.00 in addition to the usual cost of the digital screening exam.

Who can have a 3D mammography exam?

3D mammography is approved for all women who would be undergoing a standard mammogram. At The Breast Center of Greensboro Imaging, patients without implants who are candidates for a screening exam are candidates for 3D mammography. However, this exam is not appropriate for every patient.