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Is a 3D Mammogram Really Better Than a 2D Mammogram?

Patients and colleagues both have asked if 3D mammograms are worth all of the hype. At Wake Radiology, we strongly believe that 3D mammography, or 3D breast tomosynthesis, is absolutely as revolutionary as it’s stated to be. We agree that it is the most advanced technology in the detection of breast cancer in more than 25 years. In fact, the difference in traditional 2D and 3D mammograms can actually be staggering.

How does it work?
A 3D mammogram is performed in conjunction with the traditional 2D exam. The x-ray machine makes a sweeping arch over the breast, lasting only a couple more seconds that a traditional scan. The result is a series of images that gives a more complete picture of breast health.

How is it different?
During the 3D portion of the mammogram, a computer then produces a layered 3D image of the breast tissue. This provides unmatched clarity and detail of the breast tissue and allows a radiologist to flip through the 1mm images like pages in a book.

Traditional, 2D images are flat and breast tissue is often overlapping. This can make the images difficult to read.

Check out the differences in the two roses here. You don’t need to be a breast imaging specialist to see that the 3D scan offers a more clear picture of the inside of the flower.


What are the top benefits?
To Dr. Eithne Burke, co-director of the Breast Services at Wake Radiology, the benefits are simple.

“3D mammography allows us to see so much better through a patient’s breast tissue and to evaluate whether findings are real or related to superimposed tissue. It allows us to see small tumors that are often obscured on the routine 2D mammogram. 3D mammography is the single greatest advance in breast imaging in my career”” says Burke.

3D Mammography:

  • Provides greater clarity and detail
  • Improves breast cancer detection by 27-50%
  • Detects breast cancer at the earliest possible stage when it’s most treatable
  • Reduces callbacks as well as the need for additional imaging exams
  • Appropriate for women of all breast densities

Is it covered by insurance?
Insurance companies are recognizing the importance of 3D mammography in conjunction with the covered routine 2D mammogram and most major carriers now cover the 3D portion of your screening mammogram. We always recommend that you verify coverage of the 3D (breast tomosynthesis) portion with your carrier before your appointment. We’re pleased to announce that Starting October 1, 2017, Wake Radiology will be in network with United Healthcare. We offer interest free payment plans for all exams, including 3D mammograms. Because we don’t want costs to keep you from having this potentially lifesaving screening.

How do you request an appointment?
Wake Radiology is the Triangle’s leader in 3D mammography offering this service at multiple locations throughout the area. Many offices also offer Saturday and evening appointments. To schedule your 3D mammogram, call our scheduling team at 919.232.4700 or click here to request an appointment online.

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