October has become synonymous with pumpkins, trick-or-treating, football and a sea of pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Companies pink wash everything from grocery store food labels to the NFL football field. Washington Radiology applauds the many organizations that have aided in breast cancer research, advocacy and education. Since 1982, the pink ribbon has made it acceptable for men and women to talk more openly about women’s breast health and associate the pink ribbon with breast cancer awareness.
“Yet, with the rise in breast cancer advocacy in October, very little is reported on proactive efforts like mammography screening and the key role it plays in early detection.” Washington Radiology believes that women should be empowered with the knowledge to make the best choices for themselves based on their unique health history and primary care physician’s recommendations. Peace of mind, overall wellness, better treatment options, and long life all come from early detection.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Washington Radiology shares seven 3-D mammography facts every woman should know.
- Why choose 3-D mammography?
While conventional 2-D mammography was a significant step forward for its time, it has been dramatically surpassed by the improved technology of 3-D mammography. More than 125 studies have demonstrated an increase in cancer detection (up to 54 percent) and a reduction in recalls (by 37 percent). The technology not only increases a woman's chances for early detection and survival, but from a cost standpoint reduces the time, burden and expense of unnecessary follow-up diagnostic testing and/or later-stage invasive surgeries and treatments.
- What is 3-D mammography?
3-D mammography is the most advanced technology available for screening or diagnostic mammograms. In layman’s terms, imagine a closed book with clear covers and pages. With 2-D, the radiologist must peer through the front or back cover, looking for a single word that does not have the same characteristics as the other words. With 3-D, the breast becomes an open book, with upwards of 60 images giving the radiologist the ability to look for that abnormal word one “page” at a time.
- Does 3-D mammography take longer?
As with 2-D mammography, each compression on a 3-D mammogram lasts about 4-5 seconds, and the entire procedure only takes 5 to 10 minutes. Washington Radiology’s compassionate mammographers are highly trained in compression and placement, using just enough compression to get the best images of a patient’s breast, but not too much compression to cause unnecessary discomfort.
- What’s the difference between 2-D and 3-D mammography?
From a patient’s point of view, there is no noticeable difference between a 2-D exam and a 3-D exam. The procedure takes about the same amount of time, compression and positioning. The only change a woman will see is that instead of the camera arm of the machine remaining stationary, as in a 2-D mammogram, the arm will swing around the breast and take the 3-D images.
From a radiologist’s point of view, the difference in images is night and day. Providing 3D images of breast tissue, divided into 1-mm slices, allows the radiologist to see cancers as early as Stage 0 and to find masses that might otherwise be hidden within dense breast tissue.
- Is 3-D mammography new?
The technology of 3-D mammography has been around for nearly a decade. In 2010, Dr. Stephen Rose presented the very first patient in the country diagnosed with 3-D mammography to a Food and Drug Administration medical panel. The following year, in 2011, the FDA approved 3-D mammography. Peer-reviewed research, co-authored by Dr. Rose and published in the American Journal of Roentgenology in 2013, demonstrated that 3-D mammography increases early detection of breast cancer by 54 percent and decreases recall rates by 37 percent.In 2015, Medicare announced full coverage for 3-D mammography; in 2016, CIGNA became the first national private insurer to cover 3-D mammography. Since then, various private insurers have followed suit, and many states have passed legislation requiring 3-D to be covered by all private insurers.
- Who should get 3-D mammography?
Physician-led research and clinical evidence point clearly to 3-D mammography as the new standard of care for all women. In particular, however, women who have dense breast tissue, frequent callbacks for mammograms, fibrocystic changes and/or a family history of breast cancer have found the 3-D test to provide much greater confidence in their results given their specific history of breast health concerns.
- What is dense breast tissue and why is 3-D mammography recommended?
Per the American Cancer Society, “Breast density is based on how fibrous and glandular tissues are distributed in your breast, vs. how much of your breast is made up fatty tissue.” Mammogram images are black and white. Breast cancer and dense glandular tissue appear white whereas fatty tissue appears gray on a mammogram. Radiologists can better differentiate cancer from overlying glandular tissue with 3-D mammography. In addition, women who have denser breast tissue tend to be younger. And of all women diagnosed in the U.S. with invasive breast cancer in 2015, 22 percent were under the age of 50. For this reason, 3-D mammography is especially recommended for younger women and for those with dense breast tissue.
Since 1948, Washington Radiology has been an innovative leader in medical imaging care and has promoted early detection in breast health. From its early beginnings as the radiology provider for Columbia Hospital for Women Medical Center in Washington D.C. , to its position today as a full-service imaging provider, Washington Radiology remains deeply committed to its roots in women’s imaging. As the first medical imaging center in the metro D.C. area to invest in 3-D mammography, they know that early detection not only increases a woman's chances for survival, but from a cost standpoint reduces the time, burden and expense of unnecessary follow-up diagnostic testing and/or later-stage invasive surgeries and treatments.
Simply put, 3-D Mammography is considered the most advanced technology in screening and diagnostic mammography. More than 140 clinical studies have shown it to be a more accurate test, using the latest in technology to provide more and better images of each breast. Not only is it more accurate but 3-D mammography also decreases recalls for additional tests, leading to greater peace of mind. 3-D technology is available at all seven Washington Radiology locations throughout Maryland, Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia.