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3D Mammograms: How They Work and How Patients Can Benefit


February is Cancer Prevention Awareness Month. Here at the Abramson Cancer Center, we are committed to providing outstanding comprehensive cancer care and cancer information including ways to prevent cancer. Further, cancer researchers at Penn are at the forefront of learning new ways to prevent and detect cancer.

In this article, we discuss mammograms. And how a new type of mammogram offered at Penn may improve accuracy.

The Importance of Breast Imaging

The mammogram remains the most important screening device in the detection of breast cancer and it likely saves thousands of lives every year.

Beginning at age 40, all women should have an annual mammogram to check for breast cancer.

Depending on an individual’s personal or family cancer risk, a physician may recommend that annual mammograms begin before age 40.

How Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT) Works

Digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT), is considered a better mammogram because it allows for more accurate pictures of breast health.

Like a traditional mammogram, the breast is compressed for about four to five seconds, while a series of low-dose X-rays are taken to capture high-resolution images of the breast. These images are then digitally “stacked” to construct a total 3D image of the breast.

This 3D image allows radiologists to scroll through, and “peel apart” the layers of the breast to view the breast tissue at different depths and angles, allowing them to find cancers that previously were not visible with 2D mammograms.

In addition, people who are screened with DBT technology may find they are also called back less often for follow-up visits and additional testing.

About This Blog

The Focus on Cancer blog discusses a variety of cancer-related topics, including treatment advances, research efforts and clinical trials, nutrition, support groups, survivorship and patient stories.

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