From Our Experts  |  March 3, 2021  | 

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

Patients often ask if 3D mammograms are worth all of the hype. At Wake Radiology, UNC REX, we strongly believe that 3D mammography 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?
The actual exam for a traditional and 3D mammogram are similar. During a 3D mammogram, 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, sometimes more than 100 images per breast, that gives a more complete picture of breast health. A traditional mammogram only provides a total of four images, two from each breast.

How is it different?
During a 3D 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, breast imaging radiologist at Wake Radiology UNC REX, 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 my 3D mammogramcovered by insurance?
Most major insurance companies in the Triangle now fully cover 3D mammograms as part of a patient’s annual routine screening. We always recommend that you verify coverage with your carrier before your appointment.

Are there other tools that support breast cancer detection?
Wake Radiology UNC REX is the first outpatient radiology practice in the greater Triangle area to use artificial intelligence (AI) to support our radiologists in breast cancer detection. There is no extra charge to patients for our doctors using the latest aid in breast cancer detection. Dr. Susan Kennedy explains how this technology works.

How do you request an appointment?
Wake Radiology UNC REX is the Triangle’s leader in 3D mammography offering this service at outpatient locations throughout the area. Some of our 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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