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A new large-scale study shows that a 3-D screening method called digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) is significantly better at detecting the potentially fatal disease. And because the breast tissue doesn't have to squished as much, it touts being less painful than traditional mammography. 

Dr. Sarah M. Friedewald, MD, chief of breast and women’s imaging for Northwestern Medicine, and medical director of the Lynn Sage Comprehensive Breast Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Prentice Women’s Hospital weighs in:

Is this an effective alternation to traditional mammograms?

Studies have shown that adding tomosynthesis (3D mammography) to traditional mammograms increases the likelihood of finding an invasive breast cancer. Additionally, fewer people have to come back for additional unnecessary testing when a cancer isn’t really there, also known as false positives

Is there a higher cost to the patient for this type?

Depending on the insurance coverage, there may be an additional cost to the patient. However, Medicare is covering this examination at no charge to the patient when performed during the screening visit.

Can a patient ask for this instead of a mammogram?

The patients can request 3D mammography, but they should make sure that their facility has the equipment to do it. Patients do not need a special order from their referring physician.

Are there health risks to this type of screening?

No additional health risks are associated with this type of screening. Radiation dose is below the FDA maximum dose allowed.

Dr. Nicole Williams, OBGYN, adds "Although the standard of care is still mammography, this new information on Digital Breast Tomosynthesis is a promising development for patients and doctors alike.  If this study proves accurate, this technology could save lives by finding more breast cancers at an earlier stage."

Women should have mammograms every year beginning at age 40 and continue for as long as they are in good health according to the American Cancer Society.

3D mammography is rapidly becoming the standard of care for mammography and is beneficial in women of all ages and breast tissue types. If patients have access to 3D mammography they should ask for that examination. 

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