Screening 3D Mammogram Provided at Mercy in Baltimore


The radiologists of The Tyanna O’Brien Center for Women’s Imaging at Mercy in Baltimore, Maryland offer routine screening for breast cancer through advanced 3D digital mammography, known as tomosynthesis. 

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 Screening 3D Mammography (Tomosynthesis)?

A 3D screening mammogram (tomosynthesis) is a low-dose X-ray examination of the breast tissue recommended for women on a routine basis, as part of overall preventative health plan. It is performed when there are no signs or symptoms of breast disease, to evaluate for the possibility of breast cancer. 

Screening mammography is the one exam proven in clinical trials and medical studies to help with earlier detection of cancer, which often allows for less extensive surgery and less frequent/aggressive chemotherapy.

Tomosynthesis, commonly referred to as 3D mammography, is the most advanced mammographic technology currently available. Through a landmark gift and investment from a generous donor, Mercy Medical Center was an early adopter of this technology.

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Why should I have a Screening 3D Mammogram (Tomosynthesis)?

Early detection of breast cancer plays a critical role in the successful treatment of the disease. All women are at risk of developing breast cancer and a majority of breast cancer cases occur in women with no family history of the disease. A majority of breast cancers are diagnosed when there are no signs or symptoms of the disease. 

The goal of breast cancer screening is to diagnose tumors when they are small and not easily detectable through a routine physical exam. Early detection may increase the possibility for successful and less aggressive treatment options.  

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

Studies have shown that 3D mammography typically results in increased breast cancer detection rates and a very significant reduction in recall rates (return for additional imaging tests).

A traditional 2D mammogram provides only a flat single 2 dimensional image of the breast tissue, much the same as a traditional chest X-ray or bone X-ray.

3D mammography (tomosynthesis) is a 3D X-ray exam which includes multiple images of the breast tissue taken rapidly over a matter of seconds. Computer technology then reconstructs multiple images of the tissue at 1mm thick sections along with a synthesized 2D image set - all of which can be easily viewed by the radiologist.  

A traditional 2D exam may include only a total of 4 images (2 of each breast), while a 3D mammogram may include as many as 400 or more thin section images. These thin images provide a much more detailed analysis of the breast tissue.


NEXT: When should I get a Screening 3D Mammogram (Tomosynthesis)? ›
When should I get a Screening 3D Mammogram (Tomosynthesis)?

Screening mammography is recommended for women on a routine basis as part of an overall health management plan. It is completed when there are no signs or symptoms of abnormalities in the breast, but is critical in the early detection of breast cancer in women.

The American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology both recommend that all women begin yearly screening mammography beginning at age 40. Some women may have significant risk factors for breast cancer, placing them in a “high-risk” category. It may be recommended that these patients begin yearly breast screening at an earlier age. If you believe you may be at higher risk for breast cancer, you should discuss this possibility with your doctor. 

You may be considered “high-risk” if any of the following apply to you:

  • A personal history of breast cancer
  • A first-degree relative with breast cancer at a premenopausal age
  • A male relative with breast cancer
  • Multiple relatives with breast and/or ovarian cancer
  • A personal or family history of a BRCA gene mutation
  • A personal history of radiation therapy to the chest between the ages of 10 and 30
  • A personal history of breast biopsy with a diagnosis of a “high-risk” lesion including atypical hyperplasia or LCIS/lobular neoplasia

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How is Screening 3D Mammography (Tomosynthesis) performed?

Before a screening 3D mammogram, it is important to avoid using deodorants, lotions, or powders on the day of your exam since these can sometimes cause issues with the images.

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 will be applied to thin the breast tissue in order to minimize the dose of radiation to the breast. This also prevents blurring of the image (motion artifact) and provides improved detail.

After the technologist evaluates the image quality, the patient is free to go.  

The images are then interpreted by a breast imaging radiologist, along with the findings from the Cancer Risk Assessment. A full report is sent to the referring clinician and a letter is also sent to the patient to inform her of the results and recommendations.

If any additional imaging is needed to complete the examination, the patient will receive notification of this in her result letter. Our staff will also contact her by telephone to help arrange the follow-up appointment.

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