BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Since the 70s, doctors have been using basic, two-dimensional images to detect breast cancer. Now 3D mammography – technically called "digital breast tomosynthesis" – is available in Baton Rouge. Woman's Hospital was first to offer it in the Capital City, and now Oschner Health Center on Summa Avenue has the technology too.
As the head oncology nurse at Oschner, Shelley Graphia sees lots of mammograms. But
latest one was a new experience.
"This was my second mammogram to have," she said. "Going into it I really didn't know what to expect, but honestly there was no difference from the regular 2D."
Instead of taking just one image, the X-ray arm moves in an arc, taking a continuous series of pictures that form a stack of thin layers. Those layers are then combined to form one interactive image that gives the doctor a better view inside the breast. Dr. D. Quentin Alleva demonstrated the difference.
"I may be looking at this area of density right here and question whether or not there is something of concern here," he said while looking at a 2D image. "Then I can go to the three-dimensional image and scroll through that stack of slices and see that, in effect, it actually represents a summation of fibroglandular tissue and connective tissue and is not any type of mass or density that would concern us."
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 3D mammography reduced the number of callbacks for additional testing by 15 percent, while also more effectively spotting smaller, more aggressive tumors. The study showed a 29 percent increase in the early detection rate.
But some patients worry those additional images (which take an extra four seconds each) mean a higher dose of radiation.
"We tell our patients that there is in fact a very small increase in the radiation dose," Dr. Alleva said. "but on par with living in Denver, Colorado versus Baton Rouge. So we're talking about a very minuscule increase."
Dr. Alleva predicts 3D mammography will eventually be the new standard. But as with any new technology, the rollout is slow and costly.
"This isn't something that's currently covered by Medicare and most insurances and that also is something that's factored into the whole cost equation," he said.
Ochsner also offers 3D mammograms at their clinics in New Orleans and Covington.