What Are The Differences Between A Traditional Mammogram And A 3D Mammogram?
3D mammograms and traditional (2D) mammograms are similar scans, and both have benefits and drawbacks. If your doctor recommended you get one type of mammogram over another, trust that they have taken everything into account and picked the best scan for you. 3D mammograms are the latest advancement in women's imaging and make up about 50% of all mammograms conducted around the country today.
Getting a 3D mammogram means you will get more detailed results. With a traditional mammogram, you only get a 2D scan of your breasts, but with a 3D mammogram, you will get a 2D scan and also a 3D digital reconstruction of your breast, so that your doctor can have increased visibility into your breast health. No medical scan is perfect and all are capable of false positives or false negatives. A 3D mammogram is able to detect 80% of cancers, while a traditional mammogram can detect around 59% of cancers.
What Happens During A 3D Mammogram?
A 3D mammogram requires the same compression of the breast as a traditional mammogram. Some people describe this compression as painful or uncomfortable. If you experience any discomfort or pain, tell your technician and they will help adjust for your comfort. A 3D mammogram scan takes about 10 minutes to complete. Your entire appointment should last the same amount of time as it would for a traditional mammogram.
If you are a woman over the age of 35-40, doctors recommend getting an annual mammogram to screen for breast cancer (especially if you have a family history of the disease). 3D mammograms are recommended for women with dense breast tissue. This is because a 3D mammogram spreads out the breast tissue and captures high-quality images at different angles of your breasts. Women with more dense breast tissue are more likely to have or develop breast cancer. In order to know if you have dense breast tissue, though, you will need a mammogram.
Dense breast tissue and abnormalities like tumors show up as the same color on mammograms, which makes it difficult for your doctor to interpret traditional (2D) results. 3D mammograms help fix this problem. If you have dense breasts, there is no need to increase the frequency of your mammograms. Getting an annual mammogram is still the best course of treatment, although you may want to talk to your doctor about making that annual mammogram a 3D mammogram.
Are There Any Risks When Getting A 3D Mammogram?
The risks of 3D mammograms are minimal. 3D mammogram scans use a marginally higher amount of radiation to capture your images. Studies show that this radiation does not increase your chances of developing cancer.
The biggest drawback of 3D mammograms is the number of false positives they sometimes offer up. Because of their ability to show incredibly detailed results, 3D mammograms sometimes show abnormalities that could go untreated or undiagnosed without issue. But when those abnormalities are found, doctors sometimes recommend expensive scans and treatments to get rid of them.
But one of the benefits of 3D mammograms is that the accuracy of the results reduces the number of callbacks after your scan. The main difference between traditional and 3D mammograms is in the results. You get both 2D and 3D results with a 3D mammogram and they are more accurate than traditional (2D) scan results.
What Are The Alternatives To A 3D Mammogram?
Your doctor may recommend you get an ultrasound after your 3D mammogram if there is a portion of your results that requires further investigation. This is the same reason why your doctor may recommend a breast ultrasound after a traditional mammogram. The hope, though, is that a 3D mammogram is detailed enough to rule out any issues to eliminate the need for further imaging, like ultrasounds.
A breast ultrasound is more accurate than a 3D mammogram, but it is also more expensive. Sometimes, a 3D mammogram gives you accurate enough results that will allow you to go without the more expensive ultrasound. 3D mammograms are a great alternative to traditional mammograms, although other alternatives could be breast MRIs or breast ultrasounds.
A traditional, annual screening mammogram is covered by your insurance. As of August 2018, New Jersey state law requires insurance companies to provide coverage for 3D, annual screening mammograms for women ages 40 and over. Certain out-of-state, federal, and employer insurance plans set up as “self-funded” may not comply with state health insurance laws. If this is the case, the traditional (2D) portion of your appointment would be covered, and you would only need to pay the difference out-of-pocket cost of about $60.00 for the 3D portion.
After the mammogram is completed, you will get your results within a week. Our subspecialized, board-certified radiologists will read them and send them to your doctor. If our radiologist and your doctor see something requiring emergency treatment, they will get you to help immediately. While 3D mammograms are a new technology, with more accurate results, sticking with a traditional, annual screening mammogram is still an effective way to detect breast cancer and other abnormalities.
A 3D mammogram is not yet the standard of care––although a growing number of doctors have started recommending them. At SJRA, any of our locations with a traditional mammogram also have 3D mammogram capabilities. We want to give you the peace of mind that a mammogram can bring, whether a 3D or a traditional mammogram. Let us empower you to get the care you need today. Schedule your appointment today at any of the following locations:
- Greentree Office – Marlton, NJ
- Cherry Hill Office – Cherry Hill, NJ
- Haddonfield Office – Haddonfield, NJ
- Cross Keys Women’s Center – Sewell, NJ
- Turnersville Office – Turnersville, NJ
- Women’s Center at Virtua – Voorhees Township, NJ
- Women’s Center at Voorhees – Voorhees Township, NJ
- West Deptford Office – West Deptford, NJ
Learn more about the board-certified sub-specialized radiologists who read and interpret studies at SJRA here.