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Study praises 3D mammograms

Study praises 3D mammograms

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - A new study is highlighting the benefits of 3D mammograms.

The breast cancer screening technology takes a more in-depth look at breast cancer - and as a result, it's been able to increase detections by 40 percent, according to research by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"If your institution is at 4 or 5 cancers per 1000, adding 3D mammograms might increase that to 6 cancers per thousand," said Doctor Laurel Littrell with Mayo Clinic. "So it is a significant increase."

That's not all - 3D mammograms have also decreased patients' follow-up visits by 15 percent. Doctors say that's because while using a regular digital mammogram, oftentimes patients are called back in when the mammogram appears to discover a mass that ultimately is nothing but normal overlapping breast tissue.

"[With the 3D mammogram,] we can look at that breast tissue slice by slice, instead of having that breast tissue superimposed," Littrell said. 

The idea is still new - here in La Crosse, Gundersen still uses the typical digital mammogram machine, while at Mayo Clinic, 3D scans are offered as an option only if a patient asks for one.

 Studies say more research needs to be done on the topic before the results are definitive, and there are some concerns with 3D mammograms. Several hospitals will charge more for them, as opposed to digital mammograms, so experts suggest you ask your doctor before going ahead with one. 

Also, 3D mammograms produce about twice as much radiation as digital mammograms, though doctors say it's still well within safe levels.

Despite some setbacks, so far, doctors seem impressed.

"If we can decrease the number of false positives at the same time that we're increasing our cancer detection rate, I think that's really a win-win situation," Littrell said.

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