Technical breakthroughs continuously improve diagnosis and treatment. Such is the case of 3D Mammography, now available at McLeod Health. Radiologist Dr. W. Shawn Conwell explains why 3D mammograms are better for spotting breast cancer than traditional 2D mammography.
Here’s a summary of Dr. Conwell’s discussion:
A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. We place the breast on a table, provide some compression (so that the breast doesn’t move), shine X-rays through the breast and detect them on the other side to create a picture.
We recommend that women begin screening mammography at the age of 40 and then every year thereafter, so long as 1) she remains healthy and 2) undergoes treatment for any detected cancers. We have the caveat: if a woman has a family history of breast cancer, she should begin their screening mammography 10 years before the age at which a first degree relative (parent, sibling or child) developed breast cancer. For example, if her mother developed breast cancer at age 45, then we would advise that woman begin screening at age 35.
We recommend screening so that we can find cancers while they’re early, small and have not yet metastasized to lymph nodes or throughout her body. The earlier we detect the breast cancer, the easier it is to treat.
3D mammography is an X-ray. But instead of taking a single angle X-ray, it’s multiple angles, giving us a picture of the breast that is three-dimensional. When the radiologist views the image, they view the breast in visual slices rather than one flat image.
3D mammography is an improvement over 2D mammography for a couple of reasons. First, it increases our cancer detection rates by approximately 20%. Second, it reduces by 40% the need to call women back for a second scan.
The other diagnostic tools that we use in breast imaging, ultrasound and MRI, are used primarily as problem-solving tools and not necessarily in screening. The one exception would be in women who are at very high risk for developing breast cancer — greater than 20 percent lifetime risk. In those women, we do use some of the other modalities, MRI especially, to screen those women.
All McLeod hospitals offer mammography. Currently, 3D mammography is offered at McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence, McLeod Dillon and our Mobile Mammography Unit. In the near future, 3D mammography will be offer at McLeod Health Clarendon in Manning, SC and McLeod Seacoast in Little River, SC.
To schedule a mammogram, call 843-777-2095, select option 1.
Have a question? Ask a Cancer Specialist.