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The 3D Mammography is the most significant advancement in mammography in decades

As a radiologist, I want to be able to offer the most advanced technology available to help my patients. With 2D screening mammograms it is like I am looking at a closed book, all the breast tissue is layered upon itself and it can be impossible to tell when an early breast cancer is present.

With 3D mammography, 1mm thick slices are imaged through the breast. The book is now open and I can turn the pages to see through the breast tissue.

Women know they have a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime. Most of us have a mother, sister or friend who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. The only consistent risk factors for breast cancer are being a woman and getting older. Most women diagnosed have no family history of breast cancer.

You can decrease your chances of getting breast cancer by healthy lifestyle choices. These include regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting the amount of alcohol to no more than the equivalent of a glass of wine per day. Women should be aware of the look and feel of their breasts. Many breast cancers are first detected by the patient performing a breast self exam. Any change should be promptly reported to the woman’s physician.

Regular screening mammograms do not prevent breast cancer but offer the best opportunity currently available to detect breast cancer at an early stage.The American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology recommend a  baseline screening mammogram at age 35 and annual mammograms beginning at age 40. An exception is for women whose mothers had premenopausal breast cancer. These women should begin screening 10 years earlier than the age their mother was diagnosed. So if the mother had breast cancer at age 40, the daughter should begin screening exams at age 30.

A small group of women and men have an increased chance of developing breast cancer because they inherited a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. The gene can be inherited from the mother or the father. The incidence of breast cancer in the general population is 12%, the incidence increases to 55-65% when a woman inherits the BRCA1 mutation. Women are also at increased risk for ovarian cancer. Men are at increased risk for prostate cancer. Fortunately the gene mutation is not common and can be detected with genetic testing. Families with multiple cases of breast and/or ovarian cancer, a family member with breast and ovarian cancer or a case of male breast cancer should consider genetic testing and counseling.

A recent study examined over 7,000 women and found that the mean age at diagnosis of patients with fatal breast cancers was 49 years. Of those who died from breast cancer, 65% had never been screened and 6% had not been screened in over 2 years. The younger women are, the more fibroglandular, dense breast tissue they have and 3D mammography becomes even more important.

We want the most effective screening we can get so that if we do have breast cancer, it is diagnosed early. A woman with stage 1 breast cancer has a 90 % 5 year survival rate; with stage 4 breast cancer 5 year survival decreases to 15%. This is why 3D mammography is so important. In published studies, 3D mammography has shown      

  • a 53% increase in invasive cancer detection
  • a 35 % increase in cancer detection
  • a 37 % decrease in callbacks and
  • an 11% decrease in biopsies.

What a winning combination - a screening exam with fewer callbacks, a screening exam with fewer biopsies, a screening exam that detects more breast cancers at an earlier stage. 3D mammography, is the new PINK standard.

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