Diagnostic 3D Mammography (Tomosythesis) Offered by Mercy Doctors

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 screening and diagnostic mammography. 3D mammography is provided to all patients at The Center for Women’s Imaging in Downtown Baltimore and at Mercy Personal Physicians at Lutherville. Additionally, a Cancer Risk Assessment is offered with every mammogram.

What is Diagnostic 3D Mammography (Tomosynthesis)?

A 3D diagnostic mammogram (tomosynthesis) is a low-dose X-ray exam of the breast tissue.

A diagnostic mammogram is used to evaluate patients with symptoms such as breast lump or thickening, nipple discharge, nipple inversion and skin retraction/dimpling or other skin changes.

It is also performed to monitor recovery after breast cancer treatment, evaluate findings identified on screening mammography or follow up specific findings which are considered likely benign.

A mammography technologist positions the patient and captures the images. Then, the breast imaging radiologist interprets the images immediately at the time of a diagnostic exam and may request additional images such as specialized mammography views (magnified images, spot compression views) and/or breast ultrasound to complete the evaluation.

The exam concludes with a consultation between the patient and the radiologist. This immediate diagnosis and consultation with the doctor differentiates a diagnostic mammogram from a screening mammogram.

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.

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

What are the advantages of Diagnostic 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.

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 exam since these can sometimes cause issues with the images.

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 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 a diagnostic 3D mammogram, a breast imaging 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.

The Tyanna O’Brien Center for Women’s Imaging at Mercy is a dedicated breast imaging and diagnostic Center. Our radiologists uses digital imaging to diagnose breast concerns, including breast pain, breast lumps and breast cysts.