Illustration for article titled 3D Mammograms Improve Breast Cancer Detection

It doesn't take a scientist to know that pictures of boobs are better in 3D. Wait, no, apparently it does. According to a new study, 3D mammograms can increase the detection rate of breast cancer as well as decrease the rate of false alarms.


The study—published this week in The Journal of the American Medical Association—took a look at tomosynthesis, a new test that's sometimes referred to as 3D mammography. Essentially, the test takes several X-rays of the breast at different angles to create a three-dimensional image of the breast. When compared to regular mammograms, tomosynthesis detected 41 percent more invasive cancer and required 15 percent fewer repeat scans. However, the test has not been around long enough to determine whether it saves lives or misses tumors.

With tomosynthesis, there were more biopsies: 19.3 per 1,000 scans, versus 18.1 with digital mammography.

Other findings were expressed in percentages. With digital mammography alone, 4.3 percent of the women called back turned out to have cancer, but the rate was 6.4 with the tests combined.

Although tomosynthesis resulted in more biopsies, more were positive for cancer: 29.2 percent versus 24.2 percent with digital mammography alone.


Predictably, tomosynthesis is more expensive—and it's not always covered by insurance. Typically, it may involve an additional $50 - $75 per test.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter