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What is 3-D digital mammography - or Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT)?
3-D mammography, or Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT) is a technique that allows physicians to view multiple images of the breast rather than the typical single image obtained with the conventional mammogram. Conventional mammograms provide doctors with a single two-dimensional (2-D) image to evaluate the breast. While conventional mammography is the widely accepted method of breast cancer screening, it can be limiting due to overlapping layers of tissue, which sometimes can produce unclear results, false alarms or worse — cancer being missed.
However, DBT allows for a more detailed mammogram. Instead of taking an image of the breast from top-to-bottom and side-to-side as conventional mammography does, DBT follows the curvature of the breast and takes several images of the breast as it moves. Those images are sent to a computer, where they are compiled into sharp, clear, three-dimensional (3-D) images. Within those images, your doctor can better evaluate your breast, layer by layer. He or she can adjust brightness and contrast, and zoom-in on specific areas to help detect small calcifications, masses and other changes that may be signs of early cancer.
Why should I consider 3-D digital mammography at my next mammogram?
DBT allows for increased detection of breast abnormalities along with an improved breast cancer detection rate, specifically in women with dense breast tissue. 3-D imaging performed during your screening mammogram may decrease the need for follow-up imaging of the breast.
Digital mammography feels identical to conventional screening from a patient’s perspective, though women may notice shorter exam times and a reduction in call-backs to obtain additional images.
Patients do have a choice to have 3-D mammography at the time of their screening. There is an additional $100 for this service, which most insurance companies cover.
What if the radiologist identifies something of concern?
After a screening mammogram, nearly 10% of women are asked to undergo additional evaluation. However, being asked to return for additional imaging after your initial screening mammogram does not mean you have breast cancer but rather additional imaging is needed to complete your breast exam. Rest assured that our Mayo Clinic Health System breast care team offers the most comprehensive diagnostic evaluation and latest treatment options available.
Also, please remember that while mammography can detect approximately 85% of all breast cancers, it remains important to perform your monthly self-breast examination and have your annual breast examination by your health care provider.