3D or 2D Mammograms? What's the Difference?

mammogram screening

An annual screening mammogram is proven to be the best way to detect breast cancer, but the type of mammogram you choose can be important. Summit Medical Group utilizes 3D mammography technology that significantly enhances your doctor's ability to detect and diagnose breast cancer in its earliest stages, when it is easiest to treat. Here are several reasons why a 3D mammogram is your best choice.

Image Clarity

A mammogram is an X-ray that radiologists use to find cancers in the breast tissue. Today, most of the images are digital, but the X-ray technology is different depending on if you choose 2D or 3D mammography.

2D mammograms offer a two-dimensional picture of the breast. 3D mammograms, also known as tomosynthesis, were approved by the FDA in 2011. This newer technology uses multiple low-dose X-ray images from different angles to create a mammogram picture that allows the radiologist to view the tissue in thin 'slices.' It allows doctors to look at multiple layers of breast tissue, one layer at a time, similar to flipping through the pages of a book. The process of performing a 3D mammogram is also similar to that of a 2D mammogram in regards to the amount of compression of the breasts and the time in compression.

Breast Density

Breasts are made of glandular tissue and fat. Dense breast tissue looks white on a mammogram, but so does cancer. If you have a lot of dense breast tissue, it may mask cancers and be challenging for radiologists to detect on a standard 2D mammogram. A 3D mammogram makes it easier to detect cancer because they can look at the breast from different angles. This is particularly important for women with dense breasts, who are at a slightly increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Fewer False Alarms

Sometimes, a mammogram can appear to show an abnormality in the breast, but further testing reveals it is not cancer. These types of false alarms can be stressful because they require patients to come back for a second test. Because of the improved technology, the call-back rate for women who get 3D mammograms is lower than for those who get 2D mammograms, often preventing short-term anxiety.

Cancer Detection

Multiple studies show that 3D mammography improves cancer detection. 3D mammograms can detect up to 40 percent more cancers than 2D mammograms. Additionally, 3D mammograms often detect cancers at an earlier stage, which typically gives patients more treatment options and improved outcomes.

Who Will Benefit From a 3D Mammogram?

Any woman can benefit from a 3D mammogram. Given multiple studies showing the benefits of 3D mammograms in finding more cancers and reducing the number of false positives, Summit Medical Group recommends 3D mammograms for all women as a standard of care for breast cancer screening — and they are now covered by most insurance plans.

It is important for all women to talk to their doctor about getting a mammogram annually beginning at age 40. Early detection matters: It can save your life.

Summit Medical Group provides 3D mammograms at three of our Diagnostic Imaging Centers in Knoxville. For additional information, or to make an appointment, visit www.summitmedical.com/mammography.