Women's Diagnostic Center

Breast Tomosynthesis:
A 3D Mammogram

3d Mammogram

Doctors agree that early detection is the best defense against breast cancer.  If we find cancer in its earliest stages, the chances of surviving it are good.  Until now, the best way to do that has been with digital mammography.

Today, a new technology called breast tomosynthesis - or 3D mammography - will help doctors find very small cancers and rule out "false positives" – reducing the number of women who are called back for diagnostic mammograms.

Breast tomosynthesis allows doctors to examine breast tissue one layer at a time. It may be used in conjunction with traditional digital mammography as part of your annual screening mammogram to capture more breast images.  Very low X-ray energy is used during the screening examination so your radiation exposure is safely below the American College of Radiology (ACR) guidelines.

What is breast tomosynthesis or 3D mammogram?

Breast tomosynthesis uses high-powered computing to convert digital breast images into a stack of very thin layers or "slices" – building what is essentially a "3-dimensional mammogram".

During the tomosynthesis part of the exam, the X-ray arm sweeps in a slight arc over the breast, taking multiple breast images in just seconds.  A computer then produces a 3D image of your breast tissue in one millimeter layers.

Now the radiologist can see breast tissue detail in a way never before possible.  Instead of viewing all the complexities of your breast tissue in a flat image, the doctor can examine the tissue a millimeter at a time.  Fine details are more clearly visible, no longer hidden by the tissue above and below.

View the video below which explains the process of a 3D mammogram.

How is my exam different?

A 3D mammogram exam is very similar to a traditional mammogram.  Just as with a digital mammogram, the technologist will position your compress your breast under a paddle and take images from different angles.  A 3D mammogram exam may be used as a screening tool in conjunction with a traditional digital mammogram or may be used by itself for a diagnostic mammogram.

During the tomosynthesis portion of the exam, your breast will be under compression while the x-ray arm of the mammography machine makes a quick arc over the breast, taking a series of breast images at a number of angles.  This will only take a few seconds and all of the images are viewed by the technologist at their computer workstation to ensure they have captured adequate images for review by a radiologist.

The whole procedure time should be approximately the same as that of a digital mammogram.  The technologist sends your breast images electronically to the radiologist, who studies them and reports results to either your physician or directly to you.