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October 20 2016

3D mammography: Advanced technology for diagnosing breast cancer earlier

By Jennifer Bergin, MD

Having a mammogram can make many women anxious. Being treated with care and respect during the imaging process and knowing that your scans have been read by an experienced breast care specialist can bring a sense of relief. So can timely access to your imaging results.

Three-dimensional mammography is another way women can feel assured that their breast health has been thoroughly evaluated. A 3D mammogram captures 15 images as it sweeps over the breast in an arc. A standard, or two-dimensional, mammogram results in four images taken from the top and side of each breast.

Called tomosynthesis, 3D mammography enables the radiologist to view each of the images as a series of thin, detailed layers. A computer algorithm allows for the review of each 1-millimeter slice. The radiologist can also manipulate the viewing angle to analyze certain aspects of the breast tissue on the 3D pictures.

Three-dimensional mammography is changing the way we diagnose breast cancer. It allows cancer can be detected at an earlier stage, when a tumor is smaller and easier to treat. 3D mammography also provides more images in greater detail, which oftentimes means that patients are not called back for additional imaging.

All patients are eligible for and benefit from 3D breast imaging technology. People with dense breast tissue, those who have survived breast cancer, and women with a genetic predisposition to breast cancer benefit the most from 3D mammography.

This advanced technology can detect up to 41 percent more cancers than two-dimensional digital mammography. Similarly, it reduces the need for patients to return for additional testing by 40 percent.

To ensure that you receive the best care, you will want an experienced mammography technologist to work with you during your breast imaging visit and for a radiologist specializing in breast health to read your mammogram. For added peace of mind, you will also want timely results – preferably as part of your visit.

It is also beneficial to have the opportunity to consult with your radiologist or a breast care nurse, if you wish to or need to, during your visit. If additional testing is needed, ask if it can be performed during the same visit. Also, take time to schedule any new breast care appointments, including your next screening, before you leave.

You deserve comprehensive, coordinated breast care from imaging to diagnosis and treatment. If cancer is found, work with your health care provider to select a multidisciplinary team of breast health specialists – including a breast surgeon, medical oncologist and other professionals – to develop a personalized treatment plan.

Despite the anxiety that mammograms may cause, they are an important part of a preventive health program. They can offer peace of mind. At the end of the day, that’s priceless – especially if you are concerned about breast health.

Jennifer Bergin, MD, is a diagnostic radiologist who specializes in breast health. ProHealth Care offers 3D mammography in Pewaukee, Oconomowoc and Mukwonago; each site offers immediate results for tests conducted by 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, visit ProHealthCare.org/ImmediateResults. To schedule a screening mammogram, call 262-928-3000. 


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For more than a century, ProHealth Care has been the health care leader in Waukesha County and surrounding areas, providing outstanding care across a full spectrum of services. The people of ProHealth Care strive to continuously improve the health and well-being of the community by combining skill, compassion and innovation. The ProHealth family includes ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Rehabilitation Hospital of Wisconsin, ProHealth Medical Group, the UW Cancer Center at ProHealth Care, Moreland Surgery Center, ProHealth AngelsGrace Hospice, ProHealth Home Care, ProHealth West Wood Health & Fitness Center and ProHealth Regency Senior Communities. Learn more at ProHealthCare.org.