June 25th, 2014
09:47 AM ET

Do You Need a 3-D Mammogram?

Digital breast tomosynthesis, better known as 3-D mammography, can find more invasive, and in some cases more dangerous, cancers than a traditional digital mammogram, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this week concludes.

But do you need one?

Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2011 as a supplement to digital mammography, tomosynthesis creates a 3-D reconstruction of the breast tissue, giving radiologists a clearer view of overlapping slices. This new study found using the combination of digital and 3-D mammography reduces false alarms and unnecessary call backs by 15% in all groups of patients, including younger women and women with dense breast tissue.

The study was funded by Hologic, the manufacturer of the 3-D imaging machine, and the National Cancer Institute.

"3-D mammography finds more clinically significant breast cancers earlier... so that women have more treatment options and ultimately better health outcomes," said Dr. Emily F. Conant, senior author of the new study and chief of breast imaging in the Department of Radiology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, 3-D mammography images cost more and are not yet available everywhere. Depending on where a woman lives and her insurance, tomosynthesis may or may not be covered.

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