A mammogram is an x-ray of your breasts that’s used to screen for breast cancer. Women of average risk should begin annual screening mammograms at age 40, as recommended by the American College of Radiology and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. This has been shown to save the most lives from breast cancer. Just as with any medical advice, a woman should discuss the risks and benefits of screening with her doctor. Women of higher risk should consider starting at an earlier age.
What is 3D mammography?
3D mammography, also called tomosynthesis, is a relatively new tool that allows for a clearer picture of the breast tissue. A traditional mammogram takes pictures from two angles: up and down, and left and right. A 3D mammogram, also called tomosynthesis, takes pictures from many angles. This is especially useful for screening women with dense breast tissue, for whom traditional mammography sometimes misses abnormalities.
These images are then collected on a digital detector and viewed on a computer. A board-certified radiologist will review and interpret the results.
You may have a mammogram for breast cancer screening or for diagnostic purposes. 3D mammography is especially helpful in getting an accurate diagnosis.
What happens during a mammogram?
A mammogram is a simple test, but it can be uncomfortable. You will stand facing or next to an x-ray machine that has a platform for you to place your breast. The machine will squeeze your breast and take images of it.
The whole process takes about 30 minutes to complete. It’s a little awkward at first, but the technologists who perform the exam are there to help you feel at ease.
For a screening exam, you will usually receive your results within a few days.
Risks and benefits
All mammograms, both traditional and 3D, have the same risks. They aren’t perfect and can miss tumors. A mammogram may also show something suspicious that may not to be cancer. This can lead to anxiety and further testing. However, the benefits of a mammogram finding cancer early far outweigh the risks. The earlier cancer is found, the more treatment options you have.
The 3D mammogram allows doctors to more accurately diagnose dangerous, invasive cancers. It also lessens the chances of you having to come back for more imaging tests.