Diagnostic 3D Mammography (Tomosythesis) Offered by Mercy Doctors


A woman may require a diagnostic mammogram for further evaluation of a breast abnormality or to monitor a recent recovery from breast cancer. The radiologists of The Tyanna O'Brien Center for Women's Imaging at Mercy in Baltimore, Maryland, offer state-of-the-art digital 3D mammography, known as tomosynthesis, for the diagnosis of breast cancer.

3D Mammography is provided to all patients at The Center for Women’s Imaging in Downtown Baltimore and at Mercy Personal Physicians at Lutherville. A Cancer Risk Assessment is offered with every mammogram.

What is Diagnostic 3D Mammography (Tomosynthesis)?

Tomosynthesis, commonly referred to as 3D mammography, is an advanced technique used in the diagnosis of breast cancer in women. Through a landmark gift and investment from a generous donor, Mercy Medical Center was among the first hospitals in Maryland to offer women this advanced mammography. 

As part of our comprehensive breast health services, Mercy also offers a Cancer Risk Assessment with every mammogram. Cancer Risk Assessment is a leading edge software program, designed to objectively identify women at high risk of developing breast cancer and at elevated risk of genetic mutations. Patients report detailed health/family history data on an iPad which calculates risk using clinically proven computer risk models. Our interpreting physicians then provide recommendations for patient management.
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Why should I have a Diagnostic 3D Mammogram (Tomosynthesis)?

A diagnostic mammogram involves taking X-rays of the breast which are read by the radiologist at the time of your appointment. This immediate diagnosis by the doctor is what makes a diagnostic mammogram different than a screening mammogram.

Diagnostic mammography is performed for women who are experiencing a symptom or problem with their breasts. Symptoms for which a diagnostic mammogram should be performed include:

  • A new lump or area of thickening in the breast – felt by you or your provider
  • A bloody or clear (non-opaque) nipple discharge
  • New skin changes of the breast
  • A recent abnormal screening mammogram or other breast imaging study such as breast MRI or breast ultrasound
  • A biopsy or surgery has been performed since your last mammogram
  • A personal history of breast cancer, diagnosed within the past 5 years

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What are the advantages of Diagnostic 3D Mammography (Tomosynthesis)?

Tomosynthesis provides a three-dimensional picture of the breast using X-ray. While traditional 2D mammography only provides the radiologist a flat image, tomosynthesis provides a 3D rendering of the breast based on multiple images taken rapidly over a matter of seconds. This advanced 3D technology used during diagnosis typically results in greater accuracy, increased breast cancer detection rates and decreased recall rates. 

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How is Diagnostic 3D Mammography (Tomosynthesis) performed?

Before a diagnostic 3D mammogram, it is important to avoid using deodorants, lotions, or powders on the day of your procedure since these can sometimes block the image of the X-ray. If you are experiencing any symptoms which require evaluation with diagnostic mammography, please inform us at the time of scheduling so that appropriate time is given for this exam and consultation with the radiologist. Always be sure to inform your technologist if you are having any new breast symptoms on the day of your exam.

A 3D mammogram is performed much like traditional 2D digital mammography. During a 3D mammogram, a technologist trained in mammography uses an X-ray machine to obtain images of the breast. The technologist will position each breast on a plate within the machine to include as much of the breast tissue as possible. Compression may be applied to thin the breast tissue in order to minimize the dose of radiation to the breast. It also prevents blurring of the image and provides improved detail.  

With the breast in place, the X-ray arm sweeps over the breast, taking multiple images in a matter of seconds. These digital images are sent to a computer that creates a three-dimensional rendering of the breast, providing greater visibility for the radiologist.

After a diagnostic 3D mammogram, the radiologist will immediately evaluate the images and consult with you, discussing the results and giving recommendations for follow-up. During this consultation, you have the opportunity to discuss any issues regarding your breast health and ask any questions. A written copy of the results is provided. If a biopsy is recommended, it will be scheduled as soon as possible after the diagnostic evaluation.