Edward Lipsit, MD talks with NBC 4 News about using 3D Mammography from Washington Radiology

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Now available at WRA in DCPotomacBethesdaChevy ChaseFairfax and Sterlingbreast tomosynthesis (3D mammography) is a new type of mammogram that produces a 3D image of the breast and gives doctors a clearer view through the overlapping structures of breast tissue. To schedule a 3D mammography appointment, please call 703-280-9800.

Washington Radiology Is First In the DC Metro Area To Offer 3D Mammography

Washington Radiology Associates is proud to be one of the first imaging centers in the nation — and first in the DC metropolitan area — to offer 3D mammography, a breakthrough technology in the diagnosis of breast cancer.

This recently FDA-approved technique, also known as “tomosynthesis,” produces three dimensional views of the breasts. 3D tomosynthesis currently does not replace the traditional 2D mammographic views. It is a series of very low dose images that are viewed by a radiologist in a video-type format. With the addition of 3D tomosynthesis to the traditional mammogram, WRA radiologists will be able to improve breast cancer detection while decreasing the number of patients we call back for additional testing.

The total x-ray dose for combined 2D and 3D mammography is less than the FDA mandated limits, and it is similar to conventional film-screen mammography. Since 3D tomosynthesis can markedly reduce the need for additional mammographic views, in some women the overall radiation dose will actually be decreased.

3D mammography is now available as a voluntary addition to traditional mammography at our DC, Potomac, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Fairfax and Sterling locations for patients undergoing both screening and diagnostic mammography.

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 callback for an additional mammogram thanks to the tomosynthesis exam technology.

3D Mammography Benefits:

Conventional mammography images the entire breast in one exposure, which can result in abnormalities remaining hidden by overlapping tissue. 3D mammography takes images from multiple angles and uses computer processing to build these "slices" into a three-dimensional image that a radiologist can manipulate and examine each slice individually. The advantages are:

  • Earlier detection: Conventional mammography images the entire breast in one exposure, which can result in abnormalities remaining hidden by overlapping tissue. But with 3D mammography, the images can be taken apart and examined individually, which means that additional information from tomosynthesis may detect cancers earlier than standard mammography.
  • Better visualization: 3D tomosynthesis helps radiologists better see the size, shape and location of an abnormality. In a 2D mammogram, the flattened images can hide this information.
  • Fewer callbacks: Tomosynthesis can help radiologists distinguish harmless abnormalities from real tumors. This leads to fewer callbacks for more views and less anxiety for women.

What to Expect From a 3D Mammography Exam

Tomosynthesis does not replace traditional 2D mammography; it is performed along with the conventional mammogram at the same time and using the same scanner. With tomosynthesis, image “slices” of the breast are taken from multiple angles and computer processing is then used to create a 3D image that the WRA radiologist can manipulate and interpret.

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 of the images are viewed by the technologist at their computer workstation to ensure they have captured adequate images for review by a radiologist.

The whole procedure time should be approximately the same as that of a digital mammogram. The technologist sends your breast images electronically to the radiologist, who studies them and reports results to your referring physician. 

Since it has only recently received FDA approval, 3D tomosynthesis is currently not covered by insurance. Patients choosing to participate will be charged a nominal fee to help offset the costs of offering this new technology.