New 3-D mammography helps doctors find breast cancer in earlier stages

Doctors says 3D mammograms helps the high risk

Lakeland, Fla - Tamela Belk is tired of the anxiety that comes with the dreaded mammogram call back.  Twice radiologists have found something suspicious on her mammogram and she had to go back for more tests. "I've got a lot of cysts. And usually I have to have an ultrasound afterwards."

This time she opted for the newest technology, hoping a 3-D mammogram will help doctors see better inside her dense breasts.

Watson Clinic Radiologist Thelma Chisholm explains what 3-D mammography is. "3-D mammography is a new technique in which rather than just getting one image of the breast in each projection were actually getting fifteen different slices and the computer is used to reconstruct those  images at very thin slice level, so we end up we sixty to eighty images of the breast."

Chisholm used two mammograms as an example. One was 2-D, or regular digital mammography. You can't see much due to the dense tissue. Look on the right side of the screen at the 3-D version. As she moves through the images, an irregularity pops out. "You can see there is an irregular area, kind of a pulling. It has been biopsied and it is cancer. And this area was not seen previously on her 2-D examination."

Breast surgeon Dr. Elisabeth Dupont says 3-D mammography will help radiologists catch cancer earlier and give her surgical patients a better outcome and prognosis. "I can do a smaller operation. I can do a more refined operation, a more cosmetic operation. It's amazing the difference between a small cancer and a larger cancer and their outlook is much better and their treatment is probably less."

The Watson Clinic Women's Center in Lakeland is the only facility in Polk County right now that has this technology and they don't charge extra for it.  Right now insurance is covering the test.

The 3D test is especially useful for women with dense breast tissue or for women who have a suspicious area doctors are following. While 3-D mammograms are new still, other counties do have facilities using them like St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa.  If you're interested in the 3D test call ahead to your women's center to make sure they have the new 3-D machine.

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