by Mary Rains, Mille Lacs Health System.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Mille Lacs Health System wants patients to know that their 3-D Mammogram machine gives women more of an advantage in early diagnosis of breast cancer.

Getting a regular mammogram makes good health sense, but many women don’t know that getting a 3-D mammogram offers better detection. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat and thus, provide patients with a better outcome. Tomosynthesis (or 3-D) provides another option for patients who undergo mammograms.  

While the standard 2-D (still available for testing) digital exams provide images for only the top and the side of breasts, a 3-D exam gives far more detail. With 3-D mammography, the image “slices” can be analyzed one by one, and the imaging is done through the breast tissue.

Mille Lacs Health System Radiology Manager Danette Hicks says that’s important for women, especially those with dense breasts. “Women with dense breast tissue or fatty tissue especially will benefit from this scan as there is an extra level of detail in the testing, which provides more peace of mind. Also, if you are at high risk of developing breast cancer, this is a test you will want to have.”

Since the advent of 3-D mammograms, there has been a reduction of up to 40% of “callbacks” (where the patient comes in for more testing). Additionally, 20-60% more cancers are detected as compared to testing with 2-D. The 3-D test also exposes the patient to a lesser degree of radiation.

From the patient experience side, the test is no different. It does cost more, so women will want to check with their insurance companies first before having the exam. Medicare does cover the test, and most insurance companies are paying for the scan.

Mammograms are the best way to screen women for breast cancer. Medical experts don’t always agree as to the age women should be tested and how often. It’s best for women to check with their regular medical providers, especially if there are known risk factors. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women, exceeded only by lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Getting a diagnosis at an earlier stage will influence a woman’s chance of survival.