3D Mammograms,Tomosynthesis, and Dense Breasts

Reading this post about 3D Mammograms, Tomosynthesis, and Dense Breasts may save your life.

This new mammogram technology was only approved by the FDA in February, 2011.   http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/tomosynthesis/fda-approves-first-3-d-mammography-imaging-system

In one day, I heard from two women who had Tomosynthesis.   It probably saved their lives, and certainly gave them a much better chance of survival.  In their cases, they had to pay $50 and $40 more respectively in addition to insurance.  At my local hospital,Mercy St. Charles, Oregon, Ohio, they do not charge any additional, so check with your hospital.  So many women I hear from had lumps that were never discovered on a regular Mammogram.  By the time they were diagnosed, they were Stage 3 or Stage 4.  And over 40% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer find their own lumps.  The cold, hard reality is that many , many women diagnosed with advanced breast cancer had nice little letters from their mammography center saying they were okay.

This story from Jane:

My breast cancer was found when I went for a routine mammogram and the woman at the front desk talked me into having a new test called Tomosynthesis.  Sometimes insurance doesn’t cover the additional costs, but my radiology center was offering it for $50.  The woman behind the desk reminded me that I would pay more for a pair of shoes, so I agreed to have it done.  Well guess what – nothing showed on the Mammogram, but there it was on the Tomosynthesis. That woman may have saved my life as my breast cancer was then caught early (Stage 1).

This story from Michelle from Iowa:

In the past, I got the regular mammograms, then Iowa Radiology changed to “digital mammography” several years ago.  The digital mammography always picked up things like calcifications, so every year for the past five years, I had to go back in for an unltrasound to check on something. 
This year, they introduced 3D mammography for the first time and I decided to do that and pay the extra $40.00 because I had learned that having dense breast tissue makes it very hard to see if there are any tumors in the breast.  Dense breast tissue appears white on the image.  Tumors also appear white so it can be very difficult to see a tumor. 
Even the 3D mammography did not show any tumors even though there were two tumors in the left breast (2cm and 1.8cm) very close to each other, but the Radiologist did see on the 3D mammogram a little “puckering” in one area. The doctor followed up on that, ordered an ultrasound and then a biopsy. That’s how they found the first 2cm tumor.  I later had an MRI (ordered by the surgeon prior to my lumpectomy)  which showed the 2nd tumor. 
Women with dense breast tissue should make sure their radiologist is looking closely for anything that might indicate a problem. 
I was diagnosed as Stage 2B (3 of 14 lymph nodes involved and tumor less than 5cm).

Since it is new technology, it can be difficult to find Tomosynthesis or 3D Mammography, however, more and more breast cancer centers are getting these new machines.  I would encourage you to find out where you can get this 3D Mammogram, ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE BEEN TOLD THAT YOU HAVE DENSE BREASTS OR DENSE BREAST TISSUE.  

On April 1, 2013, California became the fifth state passing a  law, which was bipartisan, that required patients to be told if they had Dense Breasts following Connecticut, Texas, Virginia, and New York.  Katie, one of my blog readers and a breast cancer patient, sent me this great information on Dense Breasts:

http://www.breastdensity.info/index.html

The only downside I can see to 3D Mammograms/Tomosynthesis is that according to USAToday, it has two times the radiation because it is like a CT Scan of the breasts.  http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/10/09/3d-mammogram-tomosynthesis/1615719/   There are pros and cons about this, but I will let you decide for yourself.   The stories of Jane and Michelle made me a believer.

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