3D Mammogram helps find more cancers

October 11, 2012 2:47:45 PM PDT
Women over 40 should get a yearly screening mammogram for breast cancer. The standard test is a two-dimensional kind of x-ray photo of the breast.

It sometimes can't tell normal tissue from cancer. Now, there's an advance way to improve results with three-dimensional mammography.

With the two-dimensional mammogram, women are told to come back in for more tests when not being able to tell cancer from normal breast tissue. This is time consuming and makes a woman anxious. The 3D technique can be more accurate, save time and ease women's minds.

49-year-old patient Janice Murrell at Mt. Sinai has her breasts checked every six months. She's had a number of cysts over time and gets called back frequently to check suspicious spots. "It makes me very nervous, I don't know whether it is cancer, it's very upsetting" said Murrell. Janice might not have a nervous reaction with the 3D mammography as it shows suspicious areas more clearly than the two-dimensional standard method.

Dr. Laurie Margolies of Mount Sinai School of Medicine states the 3D technique "can find more cancers and it decreases the possibility that what is found may be a false positive." A false positive is a suspicious area that means a patient gets a disturbing call to come in for more tests. The 3D technique involves a rotating x-ray head that takes about fifty slices of the breast. A computer stacks the slices like a loaf of bread to reconstruct the entire breast.

The FDA currently mandates that women have both a two-dimensional and three-dimensional mammogram because one cancer hallmark is seen better on the 2D. Women must get two doses of radiation which is still considered a low dose overall. The advantages are pretty clear on the images of Janice's breast. Her images showed an area of tissue that is denser than the surrounding tissue which questions if there is any cancer lurking in this area. "Normal fat shows on image after image but absolutely nothing there to worry about, there is no little cancer lurking in there and we can be confident of that diagnosis," said DR. Margolies.

The 3D study put Janice's mind at ease as this is the one time she will not get a disturbing phone call days from now to come back for more tests on her suspicious 2D image. Dr. Margolies thinks that in the next few years, the 3D study will be good as the present 2D method and will eliminate the need for the double dose of x-ray from the presently required 2D and 3D studies.

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