Radiology Imaging Associates Introduces Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (3D Mammography) at No Extra Charge

Posted on: 07/06/2012

Radiology Imaging Associates is committed to the fight against breast cancer. And now with the introduction of breast tomosynthesis (3D mammography), in addition to digital mammography with computer aided detection, Radiology Imaging Associates provides the latest in breast imaging technologies for early detection.

What is Breast Tomosynthesis?
Breast tomosynthesis (3D mammography) is a new type of mammogram that displays breast tissue as a 3D image. This technology was approved by the FDA on February 11, 2011, but because of the high cost of the equipment and lack of reimbursement from insurance companies, introduction in most areas has been slow. Digital mammography will continue to be the mainstay, gold standard screening approach for many years, but breast tomosynthesis is now available at RIA as an addition to our screening and diagnostic exams, taking digital mammography to the next level.

The tomosynthesis exam will feel very similar to a traditional digital mammogram. The equipment looks almost identical, and compression of the breast is still needed to prevent motion of the tissue during the picture. What’s different is that the x-ray arm of the machine will move in a slight arc over the breast during the exposure, and multiple breast images will be taken in just seconds. High-powered computing will convert this digital data into a stack of very thin images or slices; building what is essentially a “3-dimensional mammogram” that radiologists will view much like they view Computerized Tomography images.

With tomosynthesis, the radiologist can see breast tissue detail in a way never before possible. Instead of viewing all the densities and structures of your breast tissue overlapped in a flat 2D image, the doctor can examine the tissue one thin section at a time. Fine details are more clearly visible, no longer hidden by the tissue above and below. 3D images help radiologists better see the size, shape, and location of abnormalities resulting in better detection of smaller tumors and fewer false positive exams.

> Tomosynthesis will be available at Radiology Imaging Associates’ Sterling office around August 8th and at our Lansdowne location around September 12, 2012.
> Tomosynthesis is performed along with a conventional 2D mammogram - at the same time and on the same mammography machine.
> Tomosynthesis is complementary to and not replacing the conventional 2D mammography exam. Digital mammography remains the "gold standard," but experts predict, that tomosynthesis will set a new standard.
> Tomosynthesis 3D imaging may be utilized with screening and diagnostic mammography.
> Charges for screening and diagnostic mammography are unchanged. RIA is waiving the additional charge for 3D tomosynthesis at this time.
> Planning is underway to add tomosynthesis at RIA’s Maryland locations within the next year.
> The usual script or referral order from your doctor for screening or comprehensive mammography is needed as in the past.

Conventional 2D mammography exams usually consist of two images per breast taken from different angles. Each of these images superimposes all of the breast tissue into individual, flat 2D pictures. In the 2D images, discrete structures and pathology can be hidden by overlapping tissue, especially in dense breast tissue. Breast tomosynthesis takes images from multiple angles and uses computer processing to reconstruct the data into many more thin slices and/or into 3D images that a radiologist can manipulate and view in much greater detail with high resolution computer display equipment. This results in the several advantages:

> Better visualization: 3D images help radiologists better see the size, shape, and location of abnormalities. The flattened images of 2D mammograms can hide such information.
> Easier detection: By minimizing the impact of overlapping breast tissue, tomosynthesis can make a tumor easier to see, and improve diagnostic confidence.
> Fewer callbacks: Tomosynthesis can help radiologists reduce false alarms. For example, a 3D view may prove that a spot that looked questionable in 2D is really no cause for concern. This leads to fewer callbacks, fewer additional scans and biopsies, and less anxiety for patients.
> Earlier detection: Overlapping tissue can hide a small cancer in a 2D image. But with tomosynthesis, the images can be taken apart and examined individually, which means that tomosynthesis may detect cancers earlier than standard mammography.
> More comprehensive: When cancer is detected in one breast, statistically 15 percent of women have another tumor in the same breast or in the other breast. Tomosynthesis gives the radiologist additional digital data that can be manipulated to examine the entire breast in greater detail.

What to expect during your exam:
A tomosynthesis exam is very similar to a traditional mammogram. Just as with a digital mammogram, the technologist will position you, compress your breast under a paddle and take images from different angles. A breast tomosynthesis exam may be used as a screening tool in conjunction with a traditional digital mammogram or may be used for a diagnostic mammogram. 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 appears 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 you and your physician.

The radiation dose for the combined 2D and 3D exam (2D mammogram plus 3D tomosynthesis at the same time) is under the FDA regulated limit for mammography. Adding tomosynthesis does involve a minimal amount of additional radiation, compared with a standard mammogram, but no risk from an amount of radiation this small has ever been proven. The FDA thoroughly considered the radiation issue before approving tomosynthesis for use in screening and diagnostic exams and ruled that the benefit of the additional information available to the radiologist outweighs any potential risk. 

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