Study: 3-D Imaging Increases Breast Cancer Detection

Digital mammography

A new breast imaging technology that creates 3-D pictures of breast tissue can make a big difference for women getting screened for cancer.

Three-dimensional breast imaging, also called tomosynthesis, helps doctors find more cancers at smaller and earlier stages, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It also decreases the number callbacks for further imaging — which, for patients, is inconvenient at best and anxiety-causing at worst as they wait for results.

“The stress of being called back by an imaging center is huge, because the first thought someone has is ‘I might have cancer,’” said Lesley Kibel, manager of the Kupferle Breast Center at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth.

The study’s findings aren’t surprising to Kibel, who says they reflect what the breast center staff sees daily. There have been cases where cancer has been undetectable in a traditional 2-D image, but with 3-D it jumps right out at you, she said.

“The 3-D digital technology gives us a clearer picture of the breast tissue,” said Dr. Katherine Hall, diagnostic radiologist on the medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. “This aids in locating cancerous cells that can remain unseen in a 2-D image, allowing for earlier detection and treatment.”

Standard mammography is a two-dimensional X-ray of the breast, relying on the contrast of tumors and adjacent normal breast tissue. In women with dense breast tissue, deadly tumors can hide in the shadows of overlapping tissue. The 3-D mammography technology takes pictures of the breast in layers, generating 15 discrete images of the breast from different angles. The computer system uses these images to create a tomogram, showing the tissue as three-dimensional layers.

Benefits of 3D mammography include:

  • Clearer view through dense breast tissue in order to locate cancers deep inside the breast;
  • Better accuracy in determining size, shape and location of abnormalities;
  • Improved ability to distinguish harmless abnormalities from real tumors, leading to fewer callbacks and less anxiety for women; and
  • Earlier detection, since thin layers of tissue are shown separately and suspicious

“For our high-risk patients and women with dense breast tissue, breast tomosynthesis is an improvement over digital mammography,” said Dr. Robin Skrine, medical director of the breast health program at Texas Health Fort Worth. “A few years ago, digital mammography was the latest and greatest. We thought those images were really clear and gave us a lot of information. The images we get from 3-D mammography go far beyond that.”

Texas Health hospitals in Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano and Southwest Fort Worth offer advanced 3-D technology. For more information about breast imaging services at Texas Health hospitals, visit TexasHealth.org/breast-care.

11 Comments

  1. July 15, 2014

    Is there a hospital in the Dallas, Richardson, Plano TX area that has 3-d imaging
    and takes Aetna Advantage Medicare HMO plans? I’ve been told two opposite
    things by Presbyterian.

    So far, Presbyterian seems to be the only hospital that has 3-d imaging. Do they
    not realize that most women who have breast cancer are 65 and older? Makes me
    wonder if you have to be very well off or have any insurance other than Medicare
    or an Advantage plan to get this test.

    Doesn’t say a lot about Presbyterian.

    Reply
    • Texas Health Resources
      July 15, 2014

      Hi Elaine:

      We are sorry to hear about this issue. I checked our list of insurance plans that are accepted but didn’t see that exact plan listed. We offer 3-D imaging at both Dallas and Plano. Which location did you inquire about the service?

      If you can provide us with more info, I’ll do my best to connect you with someone who can help. In the meantime, you can contact your health insurance provider to see which of our locations would accept your plan for this service.

      You are welcome to reply here or email us. Our address is webinfo@texashealth.org.

      Sincerely,
      Tom Erickson
      Web Content Specialist
      Texas Health Resources

      Reply
      • Texas Health Resources
        July 15, 2014

        I have some additional info – Medicare does not cover 3-D imaging, so all procedures are self-pay. All locations are currently offering it for $99 in addition to the regular mammogram.

        Appointments can be requested at 1-877-THR-WELL or TexasHealth.org/mammo.

        Tom Erickson
        Web Content Specialist
        Texas Health Resources

        Reply
        • Randee
          July 16, 2014

          I had my 3D mammo at Harris Southwest and the charge was $200 extra. Not covered by United Healthcare or BCBS of Texas.

          Reply
          • Texas Health Resources
            July 17, 2014

            As mentioned previously in this string, the 3-D mammogram fee is in addition to fees charged for a traditional digital mammogram. Both screenings may be covered by insurance. Check with your insurance provider for specific coverage details.

    • Rose Kamar
      July 15, 2014

      Does medicare insurance cover the 3-D breast imaging? I also have Aetna as a supplimmentary. I live in Plano, TX.

      Thank you

      Reply
      • Texas Health Resources
        July 16, 2014

        Hi Rose:

        As mentioned in a comment above, Medicare currently does not cover that exam, but it’s available for $99 in addition to a regular mammogram. Contact Texas Health Plano at 972-981-4070 for more information.

        Sincerely,
        Tom Erickson
        Web Content Specialist
        Texas Health Resources

        Reply
  2. Donna Anderson
    July 16, 2014

    I would urge all women, and women with dense breast tissue in particular, to consider 3D mammography, even if they have to pay for part or all of it. At the time of my regular mammogram in January, a 3D mammogram was offered to me. I had the test at that time and it revealed a cancer tumor that did not show up on the regular mammogram. If that tumor had not been detected until my mammogram next year, it is likely that my prognosis would not be as good and my treatment would be much more aggressive. And insurance companies do need to start paying for it.

    Reply
  3. Colleen Maguire
    July 16, 2014

    Is 3-D imaging done in a diagnostic mammogram?

    Reply
    • Texas Health Resources
      July 17, 2014

      Thanks for your comment, Colleen. The 3-D mammogram is performed along with the conventional mammogram at the same time and using the same scanner.

      Reply
  4. Freida Goodsell
    July 28, 2014

    Had the 3D Mammo done a couple weeks. Worth the $75 that Solis charged. New equipment was noticably more comfortable.

    Reply

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