Understanding Advanced Breast Imaging: 3D Mammography

At Valley Radiology, we prioritize leading-edge technology to provide comprehensive care for your breast health needs. 

Our advanced breast imaging services include state-of-the-art 3D mammography, which offers a more detailed view of breast tissue than conventional 2D mammograms.

Continue reading below to learn more about this diagnostic imaging tool.

What is a 3D Screening Mammogram?

A 3D screening mammogram, also known as digital breast tomosynthesis, is an advanced imaging technique used to screen for breast cancer and detect abnormalities within the breast tissue. 

Unlike conventional 2D mammography, which captures a single flat image of the breast, 3D mammography captures multiple images of the breast from various angles.

The three-dimensional view allows radiologists to examine the breast tissue layer by layer, making it easier to detect small masses, distortions, or other abnormalities hidden in a conventional mammogram. 

3D mammography has been shown to improve breast cancer detection rates and reduce the number of false-positive results compared to conventional 2D mammography.

Who Needs Mammogram Screening?

Breast services, including mammograms, are recommended for all women. Specific guidelines may vary depending on individual risk factors and medical history. 

Here's a breakdown of who should consider mammogram screening:

  • Women aged 40 and older: It's generally recommended that women begin routine breast screenings starting at age 40, even if they have no symptoms or family history of breast cancer. Regular screening helps detect breast cancer early when it's most treatable.
  • Women with a family history of breast cancer:  Women who have a first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer may have an increased risk themselves. In such cases, healthcare providers may recommend starting mammogram screening earlier than age 40.
  • Women with specific genetic mutations:  Some genetic mutations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, significantly increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Women with these mutations may need to start screening earlier and undergo additional screening methods, such as breast MRI.
  • Women with previous breast cancer or breast abnormalities: Women who have been previously diagnosed with breast cancer or have had specific breast abnormalities may require more frequent mammograms as part of their follow-up care to monitor for recurrence or new developments.
  • Women with other risk factors: Other factors that may increase the risk of breast cancer include a personal history of breast conditions like atypical hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ, exposure to radiation therapy at a young age, and certain lifestyle factors like obesity and alcohol consumption. 

Ultimately, the decision to start mammogram screening should be made in consultation with a healthcare provider, considering individual risk factors, medical history, and preferences. 

Early detection of breast cancer significantly improves chances of successful treatment and survival.

3D Screening Mammogram Procedure: What to Expect

When you go for a 3D screening mammogram, you must undress from the waist up and wear a gown. A technician will position your breast between two plates and gently compress it to take clear pictures. The machine will move around your breast, taking images from different angles. 

These images are then constructed by a computer to make a 3D view of your breast tissue. These are the images the Radiologist will use when reviewing your exam.

A screening mammogram exam typically takes about 15 to 30 minutes. Although it might feel uncomfortable for a short time, most women do not experience pain during a mammogram. If you experience pain during a mammogram, be sure to let your technologist know so they can adjust accordingly.

What Can Be Found With 3D Breast Imaging?

A 3D mammogram allows radiologists to detect various abnormalities and conditions within the breast tissue with greater clarity and precision.

Here are some of the key findings that can be identified through 3D breast imaging:

  • Breast Cancer: One of the primary purposes of 3D mammography is to detect breast cancer at its earliest stages. By providing a more detailed view of the breast tissue, 3D imaging can reveal small masses, tumors, or areas of abnormal cell growth that may indicate the presence of breast cancer.
  • Calcifications: Tiny deposits of calcium that can sometimes be a sign of breast cancer or other breast conditions can be found during a 3D mammogram. This imaging can help distinguish between benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous) calcifications, aiding in early detection and diagnosis.
  • Breast Density: Breast density refers to the proportion of glandular and connective tissue compared to fatty tissue in the breast. Women with dense breast tissue have a higher risk of developing breast cancer and may benefit from additional screening such as breast MRI.
  • Cysts and Fibroadenomas: 3D breast imaging can detect fluid-filled cysts, or benign tumors called fibroadenomas, which are common non-cancerous breast lumps. While these findings are typically benign, their presence may warrant further evaluation or monitoring.
  • Architectural Distortions: Architectural distortions are irregularities in the normal structure of the breast tissue that can sometimes indicate the presence of breast cancer. 3D mammography can help identify these distortions more accurately.
  • Axillary Lymph Nodes:  In some cases, breast cancer may spread to nearby lymph nodes in the armpit (axilla). 3D breast imaging can detect enlarged or abnormal lymph nodes, which may indicate the presence of metastatic breast cancer.

Valley Radiology is Your Answer to Breast Screening Near You

Your breast health is a priority at Valley Radiology, and we provide state-of-the-art imaging services, including 3D mammograms, in Angier and Fayetteville, NC. Feel free to contact Angier Imaging at (919) 331-2001 or Valley Regional Imaging at (910) 323-2209 to schedule your appointment today. Or you may Click here to Schedule a Mammogram.

Our experienced team is here to assist you throughout the process of obtaining detailed breast scans.

Please remember that a doctor’s referral is NOT necessary for a 3D screening mammogram.