How a 3-D Mammogram Saved My Life!

As many of you know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month AND I am a Breast Cancer survivor, being diagnosed with Stage 1 Breast Cancer in 2018.  To read the complete series of blogs regarding this diagnosis, please visit my practice website at drdianahoppe.com to read my first blog post.

It’s never good news when the radiologist calls you the night of your mammogram informing you that there is an “abnormality” and “we need to do a bilateral breast ultrasound and possible biopsy”.  Although, this was disheartening news on that day, I now realize that having a 3-D mammogram literally saved my life!  

Let me explain.  3-D mammography or Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT), refers to a type of radiologic imaging using 3-D technology, which is superior to 2-D digital mammography.  Studies have shown that women who have undergone DBT have fewer recalls for additional imaging and better cancer detection as compared to those women who have 2-D mammography.  The easiest way to understand 3-D vs. 2-D imaging is to consider a book – 2-D technology lets you see only the front and back covers – 3-D lets you see the front and back covers as well as all of the pages in between.  Cool, right?

The FDA approved DBT in 2011 but many clinicians were not utilizing this new technology because the medical billing code did not exist until 2015.  A recent study published in Radiology in April, 2020 found that this benefit was sustained over time and after a woman’s initial screening with DBT.  This means fewer false positives, fewer callbacks, and less anxiety for patients.  

Since DBT became available in 2015, I have been undergoing 3-D mammograms on an annual basis because I have “dense” breasts. Today, many women do not know the density of their breasts and their physicians may not have recommended DBT, despite the fact that approximately half of all women have dense breasts.  This means there is more glandular and connective tissue and less fatty tissue making it more difficult to visualize lesions/abnormalities.  With 3-D technology this has improved for the majority of women, including for me, where the radiologist was able to discern an abnormality on a few slices of the scan.  Over 60% of radiology centers now have this 3-D imaging capability.

Here is a picture of my mammogram with the arrow showing the area of abnormality.

Unfortunately, for those 10% of women who have “extremely dense” breast tissue, DBT did not improve outcomes as shown in a recent study performed by Kaiser evaluating over 1.5 million breast exams from women ages 40-79. For those women with “extremely dense” breast tissue, DBT did not make a difference in how many cancers were found or how many recalls these women had. For these women, MRI or other forms of more sensitive imaging may be indicated. 

The bottom line…. Get your mammogram done – and make it a 3-D!  If you do NOT believe in mammograms, I encourage you to undergo other ways to evaluate for abnormalities including breast ultrasound and thermography.  

As a board-certified OB/GYN, the medical society, the American College of Ob/Gyns (ACOG) determines the screening guidelines for women with mammography being the gold standard for evaluation with mammograms starting at age 40, every 1-2 years and annual mammograms for women after age 50.  

I’m wishing all of you health, peace, and faith during these trying times.

Please share this blog with your friends and family.  It may well save a life!

In health and happiness

Dr. Diana