Tomosynthesis

Now Available at Charlotte Radiology.

We're proud to expand our service offering to include tomosynthesis, or 3D mammography—the newest and most advanced technology in breast cancer detection.

Overview

An optional service for mammography patients, tomosynthesis can offer better visualization for radiologists who are helping certain groups of patients—particularly those with dense breasts. This improvement in visualization can result in fewer callbacks and, thus, less anxiety for patients.

We're thrilled to be able to offer tomosynthesis to our patients, but it's important to remember that 2D digital mammography remains the gold standard for early detection and has been proven to reduce mortality from breast cancer in all age groups starting at age 40.

Talk to your doctor today to find out if 3D mammography is right for you, and rest easy knowing that, either way, Charlotte Radiology has you covered. To learn more about tomosynthesis, continue to read below.

1 in 8 women is affected by breast cancer. Call 704.367.2232 to schedule your mammogram today.

Facts About Tomosynthesis

  • The exam is performed on state-of-the-art digital equipment, which is able to obtain multiple low-dose images of a compressed breast from different angles.
  • The process is performed at the same time as a traditional 2D mammogram, on the same scanner with no noticeable difference in the experience or time expended for the patient.
  • While the breast is compressed for the standard 2D image, a second set of images is obtained to create a 3D image of the breast, allowing the radiologist to evaluate the breast tissue one "slice" at a time.
  • All women may benefit from tomosynthesis; however, there is increased benefit to women with dense breast tissue because dense breast tissue may look similar to cancer tissue.
  • Fine details are more clearly visible on a 3D mammogram. With a 2D mammogram, details can be hidden by the tissue above and below. With 3D, those obstructions are minimized and breast abnormalities such as masses, distortion and asymmetric densities may be seen more clearly.
  • Tomosynthesis is an optional service for the patient, which supplements the traditional mammographic images. It is not yet covered by insurance and will require a small flat fee at the time of service.

Frequently Asked Questions

Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (also known as 3D mammography) was approved by the FDA in February 2011. It is a modification of the current 2D (digital) mammography that, instead, produces a 3D image of the breast.

Tomosynthesis creates multiple images or "slices" that step through the breast tissue. This allows the radiologist to see greater detail and helps reduce the impact of overlapping breast tissue. The process is performed at the same time as a normal mammogram, on the same scanner, with no noticeable differences in the experience or time expended for the patient.

Reduced Callbacks: Tomosynthesis allows radiologists to look at different layers of the breast tissue, helping to distinguish normal breast tissue from abnormal breast tissue. Information from these additional views is believed to lead to fewer callbacks and, therefore, less anxiety for women.
Better Visualization: Radiologists can better determine the size, shape and location of an abnormality with tomosynthesis.
Improved Sensitivity: By minimizing the impact of overlapping breast tissue, tomosynthesis may improve breast cancer screening and early detection.

From a patient's point of view: A 3D mammogram exam is very similar to a 2D mammogram—both are performed together on the same scanner. Just as with a digital mammogram, the technologist will position you, compress your breast under a paddle, and take images from different angles.

During the 3D portion of the exam, the x-ray arm of the machine makes a quick arc over the breast, taking a series of breast images at a number of angles. The entire procedure should take approximately the same amount of time as a 2D mammogram.

From a technical point of view: The technologist sends your breast images electronically to the radiologist, who will examine breast tissue one layer at a time instead of viewing all the complexities of your breast tissue in a flat image. Fine details can be more clearly visible, less likely to be hidden by the tissue above and below.

This image depicts a tomosynthesis experience from the patient's point of view. A 3D mammogram exam is very similar to a 2D mammogram. In fact, both images are taken at the same time, on the same scanner. And just as with a 2D digital mammogram, the technologist positions the patient, compresses their breast under a paddle and takes images from different angles. During the 3D portion of the exam, the machine's x-ray arm makes a quick arc over the breast, taking a series of images at a number of angles. Tomosynthesis adds no time to the exam, with the entire procedure taking approximately the same amount of time as that of a 2D mammogram.


This image illustrates the differences in 2D and 3D breast imaging. In the "conventional" 2D mammogram (pictured left), there is an apparent area of concern that may require additional studies, like another mammogram or a biopsy. Instead, looking at the same breast tissue in a succession of 3D images (pictured right), doctors can now see that the tissue is, in fact, normal breast tissue that was simply overlapping in the traditional mammogram, thus creating the illusion of an abnormality. In this scenario, the patient likely avoided a callback for an additional mammogram—and the anxiety that goes along with it—thanks to tomosynthesis technology.

All women may benefit from tomosynthesis; however, the benefit is greatest in women with dense breast tissue, because it can mask cancers and/or lead to false positives.

How do you know if you have dense breasts?
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 about density. You can either:

  • Speak with your physician. If you have had a prior mammogram, your primary care provider will have a report on record that would indicate your breast density, or
  • Speak with your mammography provider. If you have had a prior mammogram, your mammography provider will have a report on record that would indicate your breast density.

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

3D mammography can help radiologists rule out abnormalities that may have looked suspicious in a 2D mammogram, so the likelihood you'll be called back may be less. However, there is still a chance that some patients will require additional mammographic views and/or ultrasound.

3D Mammography is now covered by the following health plans:

  • Aetna
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield - North Carolina
  • Cigna U
  • Medcost 300
  • Medicare Part B and Advantage Plans
  • United Healthcare
  • If 3D mammography is elected, Charlotte Radiology will file the 3D portion of the exam to your insurance provider. Should your provider not cover, you will receive a bill. The max out-of-pocket cost will be $55.

    No. The 3D images must be acquired at the same time as the 2D images.

    If you are age 40 or older with no new breast concerns (lump, bump, etc ...), you can schedule a mammogram on your own, anytime. While a referral is not required, please talk to your physician or mammography provider if you'd like to add it to your mammogram.


    We can typically accommodate screening mammography appointments within one to two business days; however, due to the high demand for tomosynthesis exams, you may experience a longer delay in obtaining your desired appointment date. We encourage you to proceed with your annual 2D mammogram on your due date unless you fall under our recommendations for 3D mammography.

    To schedule an appointment, call 704.367.2232.