3-D Mammograms Improve Breast Cancer Screening

The breast image at left was produced by traditional mammography. The yellow arrow points to a just-visible detected mass. The image at right is of the same breast but was produced by 3-D mammography, or tomosynthesis. The yellow arrow points to the same mass, which is more clearly outlined and visible.

The breast image at left was produced by traditional mammography. The yellow arrow points to a just visible detected mass. The image at right is of the same breast but was produced by 3-D mammography, or tomosynthesis. The yellow arrow points to the same mass, which is more clearly outlined and visible.

Except for non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer remains the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women. But there is good reason, says the American Cancer Society, to be encouraged by breakthroughs in detection and treatment of breast cancer. These advances, along with greater public awareness of the importance of breast exams, have caused a steady decline in breast cancer deaths in women since 1990.

Now, physicians and their patients have a sophisticated new tool that aids in early detection. Called tomosynthesis, the technology produces a three-dimensional image of the breast.

“Initial findings show that this technology is effective in two important ways,” says radiologist Catherine Appleton, MD, chief of the Breast Imaging Section at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. Studies comparing traditional mammography to tomosynthesis show that the 3-D exam results in a higher rate of cancer detection, and it produces fewer false-positive results.

Conventional mammography has a false-positive rate of about 10 percent, Appleton says. That number represents a lot of unnecessary stress—and expense—for women who receive an initial positive test result and must undergo additional diagnostic testing to determine whether cancer is present or not. Studies of the 3-D imaging system suggest that its accuracy can reduce the number of false-positive results by 40 percent.

Your 3-D breast exam will not be noticeably different from a conventional digital exam. During the procedure, breast tissue is compressed between two plates. An X-ray arm moves above the breast in an arc-like sweep, taking a series of 15 low-dose X-ray images. When these images are assembled, they give radiologists a view of the breast in three dimensions. The exam lasts just a few seconds longer than conventional mammography.

Schedule Your Exam

Joanne Knight Breast Health Center
Center for Advanced Medicine
4921 Parkview Place, 5th floor l 314-454-7500

Highlands Medical Building
1110 Highlands Plaza Drive East l 314-454-7500

Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital
969 North Mason Road l 314-454-7500

Siteman Mammography Van
Visit siteman.wustl.edu for a schedule of locations

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Category: Siteman Cancer Center

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Barnes-Jewish Hospital at Washington University Medical Center is the largest hospital in Missouri and the largest private employer in the St. Louis region. An affiliated teaching hospital of Washington University School of Medicine, Barnes-Jewish Hospital has a 1,800 member medical staff with many who are recognized as "Best Doctors in America." They are supported by residents, interns and fellows, in addition to nurses, technicians and other health-care professionals.

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