3D Mammograms or Not?

ORLANDO, Fla. (KFSN) -- A 3D mammogram is a newer type of screening method that creates three-dimensional pictures of the breast using x-rays. Research shows this technology may improve cancer detection. So why isn't every woman getting a 3D scan?

One in every eight American women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime.

A mammogram is the gold standard screening tool for spotting a breast tumor. But now there's the 3D mammogram. It takes multiple x-ray images from many angles and creates a 3D picture of the breast. Studies show it can detect more cancers in women with dense breast tissue, and it renders fewer false positives.

Debbie Bennett, MD, the director of breast imaging at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital in St. Louis Missouri, told Ivanhoe "The data actually shows that 3D mammography is better for all groups of women than 2D mammography."

But not every woman is being offered this technology. Part of the reason? It's much more expensive than a standard mammogram, so many facilities can't afford the equipment. Also, some experts say even if the 3D method spots more cancers, that may not translate to saved lives. And there's the concern over radiation. In the past, the 3D mammogram was combined with 2D, so radiation exposure was much higher. However, newer 3D-only machines emit less radiation. The bottom line? You'll have to stay tuned to see if 3D goes mainstream.

Another reason many hospitals aren't going 3D? The equipment needed for a 3D mammogram requires facilities to change their electrical supply and upgrade their air conditioning because the machine is sensitive to heat.

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Jason Merrill


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