Many women are familiar with the term “mammogram”. So now the word “tomosynthesis” is starting to get used more frequently – so what is it? Tomosynthesis uses the same technology as regular mammograms which are 2-D, and tomosynthesis mammograms are 3-D. Standard 2-D mammography takes two X-rays of each breast. The X-rays are taken from two angles, from top to bottom and side-to-side. Tomosynthesis 3-D mammography takes multiple X-rays of each breast, and the X-rays are taken from many angles. It appears that 3D mammograms are more expensive than standard ones, and most insurers don’t cover them yet and these scans also expose women to more radiation. One advantage of 3D mammography is that it does help doctors find more invasive breast cancers will cutting down on callbacks (a callback is when a mammogram picks up something suspicious and the doctor wants to do additional imaging or a biopsy).

Other forms of breast screening and testing besides 2D and 3 D mammography include:

  • Clinical breast examination involves examination of the breasts by a doctor.
  • Ultrasonography evaluates masses found in a mammogram.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used for diagnostic evaluation, assessing masses after surgery or following radiation therapy. It can also be used for screening people who are at higher risk of breast cancer.
  • Thermography shows skin temperature changes that could indicate a tumor.
  • BRCA testing reveals whether a woman carries the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation that increases their risk of breast cancer. If a BRCA gene mutation is confirmed, more regular breast screening might be recommended.

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