Managing Treatments

UVA’s Low-Dose 3-D Mammogram Machine Offers Better Early Detection

The new 3-D mammogram machine at UVA takes clearer pictures with less radiation.

The news is out! The UVA Health System is the only location in the area with a new, low-dose 3-D mammography tool that helps detect invasive breast cancer early with a lower dose of radiation. Read on for more information about how this technology will change breast cancer diagnoses for many patients.

What is 3-D Mammography?

A mammogram is an X-ray of your breast, which is used to look for early signs of breast cancer. A traditional 2-D mammogram takes pictures from the left and right and top and bottom, producing a flat image. A 3-D mammogram, also called tomosynthesis, takes images from many angles, providing a more detailed 3-D image (hence, the name).

Your breast has pockets of tissue that are surrounded by fat. This fat can hide tumors, making it difficult to spot cancer early. A 3-D mammogram is especially beneficial for women with dense breast tissue or those at higher risk of developing breast cancer, because it creates a more accurate image.

The clearer images help detect cancer early and reduce the number of false positive results. A false positive is when there’s an abnormality spotted in the image that looks like cancer, but it turns out not to be. False positives lead to anxiety and occasionally unnecessary tests and treatments. Reducing those through better mammography technology can put your mind at ease and allows you to make better decisions with your care team. This technology advancement also has a higher rate of detecting breast cancer and reduces false positives. It also takes the images faster than previous software.

Advances in 3-D Mammography

UVA was the first hospital in the region to offer 3-D mammograms and is the only hospital in central Virginia to offer this new machine. Previously, 2-D and 3-D images were taken at the same time. This raised the radiation exposure during each mammogram over what it was with just a 2-D scan. The new mammography machine at UVA takes only 3-D images and reduces your radiation exposure by about 40 percent, according to a report from CBS19 in Charlottesville. At UVA, your results are read by one of five radiologists who specialize in breast imaging.

At UVA, we suggest women begin having mammograms starting at age 40. For women with average risk of developing breast cancer, we encourage them to have a mammogram every year until age 55. At that time, they should discuss with their breast radiologist or doctor what screening regimen is best for them. After you have had a mammogram, UVA will send you a letter indicating your lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, your amount of breast density, and what types of imaging modalities will best suit your needs.

Getting a mammogram is one of the best ways to prevent breast cancer. When caught at early stages, breast cancer is highly treatable and often lets you avoid having to undergo more aggressive treatment.

Generally, the earlier breast cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat. Learn more about how mammogram technology is evolving right here at UVA.

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Patricia Chaney
Patricia Chaney