Digital mammography uses a specially designeddigital camera and a computer to produce an image that is displayed on a high-resolution computer monitor.
While digital mammography is still one of the most advanced technologies available today, it is only a two-dimensional picture of the breast. Since the breast is composed of pockets of dense tissue surrounded by fat, when X-rayed, it creates an image that looks something like a smoky haze. The overlapping tissue in the images makes it difficult to see tiny “spots”, called microcalcifications, and other subtle signs of early cancer.
For screening patients, Breast Tomosynthesis offers the radiologist improved subtle cancer detection and a lower recall rate. For patients who are considered high risk or with a family history of breast cancer, Breast Tomosynthesis is the preferred method of imaging.
What is Breast Tomosynthesis
Breast Tomosynthesis allows doctors to examine breast tissue one layer at a time. This exciting new technology has been recently FDA approved and is now available.
Breast Tomosynthesis is a new technology in the fight against breast cancer. Breast Tomosynthesis may be used in conjunction with traditional digital mammography as part of your annual screening mammogram to capture more breast images. Very low X-ray energy is used during the screening examination so your radiation exposure is safely below the American College of Radiology (ACR) guidelines. Using Breast Tomosynthesis and digital mammography together for screening has been proven to reduce “call-backs”.
For decades doctors have been searching for a technology to help them find very small cancers or rule out “false positives” and reduce the number of women who are called back for a diagnostic mammogram.
Breast Tomosynthesis may also be used for a diagnostic mammogram if you happen to be called back for this type of exam.
Breast Tomosynthesis uses high-powered computing to convert digital breast images into a stack of very thin layers or “slices”—building what is essentially a “3-dimensional mammogram”.
During the tomosynthesis part of the exam, the X-ray arm sweeps in a slight arc over the breast, taking multiple breast images in just seconds.
Very low X-ray energy is used so your exposure is about the same as that of a traditional mammogram. A computer then produces a 3D image of your breast tissue in one millimeter layers.
Now the radiologist can see breast tissue detail in a way never before possible. Instead of viewing all the complexities of your breast tissue in a flat image, the doctor can examine the tissue a millimeter at a time. Fine details are more clearly visible, no longer hidden by the tissue above and below.
In a “conventional” 2D mammogram there appears to be an area of concern that the doctor may want to further investigate with another mammogram or a biopsy. Looking at the same breast tissue in 3D “breast tomosynthesis” image slices, the doctor can now see that the tissue is in fact normal breast tissue that was overlapping in the traditional mammogram creating the illusion of an abnormal area. In this scenario, this patient likely avoided a call-back for an additional mammogram thanks to the tomosynthesis exam technology.
What to expect during your exam
A Breast Tomosynthesis exam is very similar to a traditional mammogram. Just as with a digital mammogram, the technologist will position you, compress your breast under a paddle and take images from different angles. A Breast Tomosynthesis exam may be used as a screening tool in conjunction with a traditional digital mammogram or may be used by itself for a diagnostic digital mammogram. During the Tomosynthesis portion of the exam, your breast will be under compression while the X-ray arm of the mammography machine makes a quick arc over the breast, taking a series of breast images at a number of angles. This will only take a few seconds and all the images are viewed by the technologist at their computer workstation to ensure they have captured adequate images for review by a radiologist.
3D tomosynthesis mammogram layers