New research reports that there may be a better mammogram. Scientists at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and other institutions found that three-dimensional (3-D) images of the breast were more likely to find more invasive and dangerous cancers.
The 3-D procedure, called digital breast tomosynthesis, also reduced the number of women who had to be called back for a second mammogram to double-check the results of the first.
In the largest study of its kind to date, the researchers looked at 450,000 women to measure the effectiveness of the technology. The procedure is especially effective for younger women who have more dense breasts; an important fact for black women because we are more likely to develop invasive breast cancers at a young age.
“It’s the most exciting improvement to mammography that I have seen in my career, even more important for women than the conversion from film-screen mammography
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to digital mammography,” said senior study author Emily F. Conant, M.D., chief of breast imaging in the Department of Radiology at the Perelman School, in a University of Pennsylvania interview.
“3-D mammography finds more clinically significant breast cancers earlier, which is the key so that women have more treatment options and ultimately better health outcomes,” she said.
The study group included women from a wide variety of breast screening programs and different parts of the country. Researchers discovered that the 3-D procedure found 41 percent more invasive cancers when women were screened with tomosynthesis plus digital compared to digital mammography alone. The use of tomosynthesis also reduced by 15 percent the number of women called back for unnecessary screenings due to false alarms.
But there is one caveat: having both procedures together increases the amount of radiation exposure. Perhaps having a 3-D baseline mammogram, rather than one every year, is the best route.
To learn more, discuss it with your gynecologist. She may be able to recommend a 3-D mammography center in your area.