AUSTIN (KXAN) - New technology in breast cancer research now allows women to get three-dimensional mammograms.
The new screening process, also known as tomosynthesis, significantly improves the accuracy of the mammogram exam and minimizes the chance of having patients return for a follow-up.
The Breast Center at St. David's Medical Center will be the first facility in Austin to offer 3D mammograms starting in July.
The 3D mammogram is similar to the traditional 2D test, but instead of having pictures taken from just the top and the side of your breasts, the 3D mammogram takes pictures from multiple angles, allowing physicians to see breast tissue in greater detail than ever.
"It's a combo exam. Both are performed but with digital mammography, so you get wonderful detection of calcifications, which are hard to see," said Brenda Baumann, the director of the Breast Center at St. David's.
The pictures can then be compiled to create a 3D reconstruction of the breast through a series of one-millimeter thick slices. The exam takes about the same time as the traditional 2D test, lasting only about six to 12 seconds longer.
"For the overall process, this machine was more comfortable. It didn't seem as if you had to do as many acrobats to get yourself into the machine and it's softer. It didn't have that cold when you first hit it," said Michelle Wolfe, who is one of the first patients at St. David's to get a 3D mammogram.
Wolfe also has what's considered "dense breast tissue," and like many women, was often called back for a follow up with the conventional 2D imaging.
"Five to 10 percent of breast cancers are not detected on a mammogram because of dense breast tissue, etc. So this just gives us a higher confidence level that we are seeing what needs to be seen and detecting earlier," said Baumann. So far, there have been 38 percent fewer patient callbacks.
This technology was approved by the F-D-A February 11, 2011. St. David's will be one of roughly 500 3D mammogram facilities in the country.
Doctors say insurance will cover this 3D exam just like any other mammogram, but check with your individual provider to see what their policy is.
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