Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s (NGMC) Imaging Center in Braselton announces the addition of digital tomosynthesis, or 3D mammography, to its arsenal of tools in the battle against breast cancer. Though the exam takes only a few seconds longer than a traditional mammogram, the three-dimensional images are proven to detect 41% more invasive breast cancers than traditional mammograms.
“Traditional mammograms give radiologists a flat, two-dimensional representation of the breast,” says Julie Pardue Presley, MD, of Gainesville Radiology Group and medical director of Women’s Imaging at NGMC. “The new technology creates a 3D image using many layers of the breast, so fine details are more visible and no longer hidden by the tissue above or below. The technology means radiologists have to do fewer call backs for repeat exams because what appeared to be questionable in a traditional image may be very clear in a 3D image.”
The patient experience for 3D mammography is similar to a traditional mammogram: no additional compression is required, and the exam takes only a few seconds longer for each view. Very low x-ray energy is used during this exam, so radiation exposure is minimally increased when receiving a traditional mammogram along with a 3D mammogram. Medicare and Medicaid fully cover the new technology and some commercial payers are beginning to do so as well.
“The difference in the detail of the imaging is substantial,” says Dr. Presley. “We are seeing fewer ‘callbacks’ (for additional views), enabling us to identify problems much earlier thanks to the quality of the imaging.”
Early detection of breast cancer in the past few decades has dramatically increased breast cancer survival rates, with a 98% 5-year survival rate of localized breast cancer cases. Eight out of nine women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history, and a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime is 1 in 8.
“Whether a patient opts for 3D or traditional mammogram, early detection is vital,” says Dr. Presley. “Early detection means we can catch things earlier, and the sooner we identify a problem, the less invasive the treatment will have to be.”
To that end, Dr. Presley says her practice, Gainesville Radiology Group, emphatically disagrees with new guidelines recently released by the American Cancer Society (ACS) stating that women can wait until age 45 to begin screening mammograms (compared to the previous recommendation of starting at age 40) and can discontinue annual mammograms at age 55, opting instead for every other year.
“We follow the guidelines of the American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging, both of whom continue to recommend that women get yearly mammograms starting at age 40 (or sooner in certain circumstances) and continue annually as long as their health is good,” says Dr. Presley. “When you see the numbers of breast cancers we have identified at Northeast Georgia Medical Center in women who are in their 30’s and early 40’s, it is readily apparent the importance of not waiting until age 45.”
According to Dr. Kevin Offenger, who chaired the independent panel that created the new ACS guidelines, one of the reasons behind the delayed age is the density of younger women’s breast issue. “As a woman ages, breast issue tends to get less dense and makes reading easier.”
But thanks to the new digital tomosynthesis technology, scanning dense breast tissue is easier than ever due to the multiple views or “slices” offered by the 3D mammogram.
“Providing the very latest and best technologies is part of our organization’s commitment to continuous improvement,” adds Debbie Duke, executive director of Imaging Services at NGMC. “We are the first in the region to offer this technology and see this innovation as a dramatic improvement in the way we care for our patients, as we work to remain on the forefront of breast cancer screening.”
To schedule a 3D mammogram at the Imaging Center in Braselton, call Imaging Services at 770-219-7666.