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As healthcare technology improves, so too does the patient experience and the effectiveness of tests and treatments. Such is the case for 3D mammograms. Today, we’re sharing an enlightening conversation with a breast health professional at Norton Healthcare who explains this latest technology, the differences between 3D mammograms and traditional mammograms, and what kind of impact this advancement in technology has on patient health — such as increases in early breast cancer detection and the lowered rate of false positives. Plus, hear from a Norton patient who has benefitted from this advanced technology, which has shown to be a great benefit to both the physician and the patient.

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The age of superior technology is here, and the healthcare sector — specifically women’s health — isn’t skipping a beat. Thanks to the 3D mammogram, which is now popular among many health providers, radiologists can better detect breast cancer (and also know when something that could have looked suspicious on a two-dimensional screening isn’t actually a threat).

Dr. Katrina Lambert, a diagnostic radiology specialist with Norton Healthcare, says the three-dimensional screening has multiple benefits for both the patient and the physician.

“The increased cancer detection rate is one of the best things about it,” Dr. Lambert says. “And then, of course, the decreased call-back rate. If I’m reading a mammogram and identify a questionable area, the 3D images are going to help me know whether or not I should take that area seriously.”

Dr. Katrina Lambert is a diagnostic radiology specialist with Norton Healthcare.

Three-dimensional mammography, Dr. Lambert explains, works by providing radiologists with multiple images of breast tissue. By getting multiple images — usually more than 50 — physicians are better able to look through several layers of tissue and discern what prompts a second look and what likely isn’t a threat.

“We take multiple images at different angles and then a computer algorithm reconstructs the images so we can scroll through layers of breast tissue,” Dr. Lambert explains. “The 3D mammogram allows us to see through layers of breast tissue, particularly dense breast tissue.”

By getting a better, more comprehensive view of the breast, the radiologist is also able to view areas that might have been difficult to see due to dense tissue. Sometimes, Dr. Lambert says, those dense spots are where cancer can creep in. When these layers are revealed through the three-dimensional screening, patients are provided with a more in-depth screening — creating a “one and done” experience so fewer follow-ups are required.

“With the 3D mammography, radiologists can see each layer and know what’s normal, or nothing to be concerned about – and that’s where I think the real benefit is,” says Margaret Roetker, who has had several mammograms through Norton Healthcare. “It’s truly a valuable tool.”

In the past, Margaret adds, with two-dimensional mammograms, she’s had to come back in for further testing. “I’ve even had to have biopsies,” she says. Thanks to 3D mammograms, unnecessary follow-ups are decreasing.

radiologist looking at 3D mammogram

Thanks to 3D mammograms, physicians can now get a more in-depth screening of the breast, which allows them to better detect cancer that could have been hidden under layers of tissue. Here, Dr. Shannon Steed, breast radiologist at Norton Healthcare, evaluates a 3D mammogram. Image: Jamie Rhodes/Norton Healthcare

Looking to the future of women’s health, Dr. Lambert says she sees 3D mammograms continuing to play a key role in early breast cancer detection for a long time. And, once women reach age 40, she says, it’s wise to get a mammogram every year. The earlier screenings happen, the better.

“One in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, and mammograms are the only screening test that has been shown to decrease breast cancer mortality,” Dr. Lambert says. “There is a lot of confusion in the media about when to start screening but the literature has shown us time and time again that most lives are saved when screening mammograms begins at the age of 40. Annual screening is the standard of care, and we do recommend 3D mammography when you have that screening because it’s going to increase our ability to see cancer if it’s there.”

To learn more about the women’s health services offered at Norton Healthcare, including 3D mammography, visit nortonhealthcare.com.

This article is sponsored by Norton Healthcare.