One in eight women will be affected by breast cancer in their lifetime, and mammograms are the best way to catch a problem early so treatment can begin.

In addition to the traditional 2-D mammograms most women begin getting at age 40, Charlotte Radiology also offers 3-D mammography (technical name:tomosynthesis). It’s particularly helpful for women with dense breast tissue, which can look similar to cancer tissue on a 2-D mammogram.

Here are some FAQs on the process:

How does a 3-D mammogram work?
It’s performed on state-of-the-art digital equipment that can obtain multiple images of a compressed breast from different angles. While your breast is compressed for your regular 2-D mammogram, a second set of images is obtained to create a 3-D image of the breast. This will allow your radiologist to evaluate your breast tissue one “slice” at a time.

Fine details are more clearly visible on a 3-D mammogram. With a 2-D mammogram, details can be hidden by the tissue above and below. With 3-D, those obstructions are minimized and breast abnormalities such as masses, distortion and asymmetric densities may be seen more clearly.

The radiation dose is approximately the same for 3-D as it is for 2-D mammography. So the radiation is roughly doubled when doing a 3-D mammogram along with 2-D. But even this combined dose is still below the FDA-regulated limit for 2-D mammography and has been found by the FDA to be safe and effective for patient use.

Will it make my mammogram last longer?
No worries, there’s no need to extend the squeeze. A 3-D mammogram is performed at the same time as a traditional 2-D mammogram, on the same scanner with no noticeable difference in the experience or time expended for the patient.

Who should get a 3-D mammogram?
All women may benefit from it, but especially women with dense breast tissue, which can mask cancers or lead to false positives. Talk to your doctor to determine whether 3-D mammography is right for you.

How do I know if I have dense breasts?
Unfortunately you can’t figure this out yourself. Breast density refers to breasts with more glandular and connective tissue than fat—not breast firmness—so a mammogram is the only way to find out. You’ll need to either speak with your physician or mammography provider.

Breast density can also change over time and with life events such as pregnancy and menopause. Even if your breasts were once dense, they may become less dense (or vice versa). If you’ve had a prior mammogram, both will have a report on record that will tell you your breast density.

Sometimes after a traditional 2-D mammogram, women will get a follow-up note outlining their density “score” and possibly recommending a 3-D mammogram. If you’re confused about this, be sure to call your mammographer for more clarification.

Learn more about breast density (and see images from mammograms) here.

Can a 3-D mammogram replace my traditional mammogram?
A 3-D mammogram is actually an optional supplement to your traditional 2-D mammogram, which remains the gold standard for early breast cancer detection. Using 3-D mammography can help rule out abnormalities that looked suspicious in the 2-D mammogram, which could reduce the likelihood of women being called back for additional views. However, there’s still a chance some patients will require additional views or an ultrasound.

Will my insurance cover a 3-D mammogram?
Since it’s still a relatively new technology, most insurance plans don’t cover 3-D mammograms (Cigna, Medcost 300 and Medicare do cover it, however). A $55 out-of-pocket fee is due at the time of service, and the fee covers both the cost of the technology and a radiologist’s interpretation of the images.

Where can I get more information?
Visit or call 704-367-2232.

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