The Various Dimensions of Mammogram Screening

by Adrienne Snavely

Every year, over 200,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with breast cancer and about 40,000 will die from it. When breast cancer is detected early, it is easier to treat. Forty million mammograms are performed each year. Which type of test should you opt for?

mammogram2D and film mammography are equivalent for most women, one is not more accurate than the other. Digital equipment can cost four times that of film-based equipment. In conventional mammograms, the breast is compressed between two plates and images are taken from two angles. 2D digital images may be more accurate for women younger than 50 who are pre- or peri-menopausal with dense breasts. Both types of 2D mammograms are covered by most health insurance.

3D mammograms are offered in 48 states and over 50 countries, and have been in use since 2011 in the U.S. The 3D scanner moves in an arc over the breasts, taking images from various angles. When used along with standard 2D digital screening, 3D mammography increased cancer detection rates by more than 40%. In 2013, the FDA decided that low-dose 3D digital mammography is accurate enough to be used by itself. 3D mammograms mammogram2are better at detecting invasive tumors and avoiding false alarms. Finding abnormalities may be easier with the 3D tests. Abnormalities detected may not be dangerous, resulting in unnecessary anxiety, testing, and treatment. By using 3D screening, there was a 15% decrease in callbacks – returning for more imaging due to suspicious findings. The 3D test takes a few seconds longer than 2D, but the amount of radiation exposure is about the same for women with small or medium breasts. Women with larger breasts may need additional images, thus more radiation exposure. 3D screenings have identified cancer 4-5% more often than film or 2D digital mammograms. 3D mammography caught 5.4 cancers out of 1,000 women screened vs. 4.2 per 1,000 in the year before the 3D technology was available. 3D mammograms are more expensive than standard film or 2D ones, and insurers don’t cover them yet. Women would have to pay the difference, about $50 to $100 – a small price to pay for better healthcare and peace of mind.
Norton, Amy. “3D Mammograms May Improve Breast Cancer Screening.” Breast Cancer News. WebMD, 24 Jun 2014. Web. 19 Feb 2015.
Dudley PhD, Susan and Kennedy PhD, Caitlin. “Should I “Upgrade” to Digital or 3D? A Mammography Guide.” Breast Cancer. Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund, Nov 2013. Web. 19 Feb 2015.

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