Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (3D Mammography)

Mammograms are currently the best tool for locating breast cancer at early stages and are recommended annually for all women ages 40 and over, or earlier if you are at risk for developing breast cancer. Risk factors for breast cancer include:

  • Family history - A woman's risk of getting breast cancer doubles if her mother, sister, or daughter has had it. 
  • Biological risk factors - African-American and Caucasian women, ages 55 and older are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Women with dense breast tissue are at risk for developing breast cancer.
  • Lifestyle -
    • Not having children, or having her first child after age 30 increases a woman's risk of getting breast cancer.
    • Drinking one alcoholic beverage per day slightly increases a woman's risk of getting breast cancer, while drinking 2-5 alcoholic beverages per day increases her risk by 1.5%
    • Obesity is a major risk factor of breast cancer, which can be reduced with regular exercise. 
    • Use of birth control pills or post-menopausal hormone therapy may increase a woman's risk. 
  • Personal history with breast cancer - Women who have cancer in one breast have a higher risk of developing cancer in the other breast or in a different place on the same breast.
  • Exposure - Women who have had exposure to radiation in the chest area earlier in life, or women who have taken DES (diethylstilbestrol) may have an increased risk of getting breast cancer.

Talk with your primary care physician about your risk factors. You will need a physician's order to schedule a digital 3D mammogram at J.C.. Blair. The mammography services at J.C.. Blair are accredited by the American College of Radiology (ACR). 

The digital 3D mammogram study itself takes about 15 minutes, but you will need time to register, disrobe, and wait for your study to be processed. in most cases, this should take less than a half an hour. 

During your digital 3D mammogram, each breast will be compressed between two plates where x-ray images will screen for tumors, calcium clusters, and abnormal skin changes. Although the exam is typically not painful, some women do find discomfort during and after the screening. It is important to understand that compression enables the mammography technologist to obtain the best possible view of the inside of your breast with the least amount of radiation.

Consider the following recommendations to prepare for your 3D mammogram at J.C.. Blair: 

  • Take Tylenol or Ibuprofen one hour before your exam to avoid discomfort. 
  • Schedule your mammogram for 1 week after your period, when your breasts are the least tender. 
  • Do not wear any deodorant, perfume, powders, or ointments under your arms or on your breasts on the day of your exam. These items could cause artifacts on the images. 
  • Do not wear jewelry to your exam.
  • Inform the technologist if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have implants.
  • Inform the technologist of any breast problems or symptoms prior to the exam. 
  • Bring copies of previous mammograms and reports with you if you are having a mammogram at a new facility. 

By following these recommendations you can help to minimize your discomfort and ensure the best possible digital 3D mammography study.

Depending on the type of breast tissue you have, mammograms may not detect cancer in up to 25% of breasts. Cancer is treated the most successfully when detected and treated early. The best way to ensure early detection is to perform monthly self-exams and have yearly clinical exams in conjunction with your yearly mammogram.

Screening Mammogram

A screening mammogram is an x-ray examination of the breast in a woman who is asymptomatic (has no breast complaints or problems with either breast). The goal of screening mammography is to detect breast cancer when it is still too small to be felt by a woman or her physician. Early detection of breast cancer by screening mammography greatly improves a woman's chances for successful treatment. 

Screening mammograms are recommended every one to two years for women between the ages of 40 and 50 and every year thereafter.

Diagnostic Mammogram

A diagnostic mammogram is an x-ray examination of the breast in a woman who either has a breast complaint (for example, a breast lump, nipple discharge, or pain) found during a breast self exam. A diagnostic mammogram may also be done as a follow up for an abnormality found during a screening mammogram. 

Diagnostic mammograms typically involve several additional images and positions to obtain a more detailed work up of the problem area.

Who interprets the results and how do I get them?

A radiologist, a physician specifically trained to supervise and interpret radiology examinations, will analyze the images and send a signed report to your primary care or referring physician, who will discuss the results with you.

You will also be notified of the results by J.C.. Blair's Mammography Department. If there is an abnormality on the mammogram, a staff member of the mammography department will call to inform you of the abnormality and to schedule a follow up diagnostic test as soon as possible. 

What if my mammogram shows suspicious findings?

If there was a abnormality found on your screening mammogram, you may be scheduled for a diagnostic mammogram or a breast ultrasound. A breast ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to outline a specific part of the body. The echo of the waves produces a picture, which can help the radiologist distinguish between solid growths and fluid-filled cysts.

If a breast ultrasound shows signs of a solid growth, the radiologist may recommend a type of biopsy called needle localization. During this procedure, a surgeon will remove an area of the breast tissue that contains the suspicious area. The doctor will use either ultrasound guidance or mammographic guidance to help guide the needle into the affected area.

Please arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled appointment, unless you have been pre-registered. Be sure to bring your physician's order with you.

If you have any questions or would like to schedule your mammogram, call J.C.. Blair's Radiology Department at (814) 643-8624.

If you do not have insurance or the ability to pay for a mammogram, call the Mammogram Voucher Program at 1.888.MVP.0505 to see if you qualify for a low cost mammogram.