Smiling woman hugging younger daughter on couch at home.

What Is a 3D Mammography?

A 3D mammography, also known as Digital Breast Tomosynthesis, is an advanced imaging test that uses multiple x-rays to put together a three-dimensional picture of your breast. This allows the Radiologist to examine your breast tissue—layer by layer—and have a clear picture of any abnormalities in the breast area.

If you’ve been regularly attending annual mammography screenings, or this is your first one, you may have questions about which test will provide the most accurate analysis, and what you can expect during the procedure.

At The Breast Center of Maple Grove, we want every woman who walks through our doors to feel confident and empowered to take a proactive role in her health and wellness journey. That means having a strong understanding of your options when it comes to choosing a mammography, and what’s involved in the process.

Below, you’ll find an overview of what a 3D mammography is, how it differs from a traditional 2D mammogram, and how you can prepare for this procedure.

3D Mammography vs. 2D Mammogram

As technologies continue to advance, we have greater access to equipment and procedures that allows us to diagnose health issues affecting women, like breast cancer, easier and earlier. 

A 3D mammography is one such advancement. The procedure, itself, is performed in much the same way as a traditional 2D mammogram. However, during a 3D mammogram, the Radiologist and technician will take multiple x-rays of your breast, from various angles. 

The images are then compiled together to create a 3D visual of your breast vs. a flat image (as you would have with 2D imaging). In fact, using the 3D image, the Radiologist can easily detect tumors, or other abnormalities, that may have otherwise been hidden by overlapping tissue on a 2D mammogram.

This isn’t to say that a 2D mammogram is not effective in detecting breast cancer. However, according to a 2019 study, it was reported that when compared to traditional 2D mammograms, 3D mammograms reported fewer false positives and were considered more effective in women ages 65 and older.

How accurate are 3d mammograms?

In addition to the study mentioned above, 3D mammography has been shown to benefit women with dense breasts, in particular. Yet, more studies continue to reveal benefits for women with breasts of any density.

For instance, another study reported that 3D mammography was more likely to find smaller, node-negative breast cancer (which means they did not spread to the lymph nodes) compared to breast cancers detected using standard digital mammography (i.e., 2D).

Is a 3d mammogram better for me?

According to the American Society of Breast Surgeons, it’s recommended that women aged 40 and older should undergo annual 3D mammography breast screening. They also recommend that if you are at a higher-than-average risk of breast cancer, you should undergo annual screenings, starting at a much earlier age (35 years old).

The decision is entirely up to you and your doctor. Be sure to discuss any concerns you may have about which mammogram is right for you and your individual circumstance. If you have questions, or would like to know more about these two procedures, our team will be happy to help!

Please give us a call or visit our service pages on 3D mammograms, digital screening mammography, and diagnostic mammography for helpful FAQs about these procedures and how they differ. 

What to expect during a 3D mammogram

This procedure will look and feel very similar to a traditional mammogram. You will be asked to stand at the machine, placing one of your breasts on a plate. Your breast is then compressed against the plate by another plate, during which time, an x-ray is taken. With a 2D mammogram, two x-ray images are taken and then repeated on the other breast. 

As we mentioned with 3D mammograms, the Radiologists will need to capture multiple images of your breast tissue to form a complete 3D image. Therefore, during the screening, the x-ray arm will sweep in a small arc over the breast to capture these images from various angles. As this is the case, it will take a few seconds longer to get each image. 

Schedule your mammogram today!

Whether you’d like to request your first, or annual mammogram, our team is here to help! To schedule your appointment, please fill out our online form, or call us directly at (763) 398-6370. Remember that our care team is always here to listen to your concerns and answer any questions you may have.

We look forward to being a part of your journey to better women’s health!