3D Mammography: 25+ Advantages and disadvantages

3D mammography is an imaging approach in which the X-ray passes in an arc over the mammary gland, taking different images from multiple angles.

The 3D pictures are amalgamated by a computer into thin, 1-millimeter images, making it easy to find tumors. The radiologist studies about 200 300 images with 3D mammography, in turn in a 2D mammogram only four images are derived.

A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray that allows radiologists to view the changes in breast tissues. The gold standard cancer screening in the mammary glands has been 2D digital mammography which takes two simultaneous X-ray images of the breast, first from the top and second from the side.

3D mammography identifies a large number of breast cancers though its value is limited as the images are flat, making them tough to interpret because overlapping tissue may hide cancerous tumors.

Advantages of 3D MammographyDisadvantages of 3D Mammography
More detailed and advanced imaging approachThere are a few downsides of using tomosynthesis
Less RadiationThis approach is expensive
Less TimeNot Good in Detecting All types of Cancers
Less Chance of Being Called Back for More ImagingOverdiagnosis
Computerized Second OpinionReading time
Improved Images in Dense Breast Tissue
More Comfortable Screening

Advantages of 3D Mammography

More detailed and advanced imaging approach

Generally, tomosynthesis is taken as a more detailed and advanced imaging approach than a traditional mammogram. As tomosynthesis mammography can view at several breast layers in a 3D image, it gets the better of many of the hindrances of traditional mammograms.

Moreover, it reduces false positive outputs. 3D imaging enables the finding of small lesions and other signs of breast cancer much before a traditional mammogram and even before any symptoms arise.

It has a better perfection in ascertaining the shape, size as well as site of mammary gland malformation. Moreover, tomosynthesis mammography has a higher probability of finding multiple breast tumors. 

Less Radiation

Since the discovery of the X-ray researchers have been exploring new ways to reduce radiation levels, as overexposure to radiation may be extremely harmful to our health.

Since radiologists started using tomosynthesis, patients were perturbed because of risks associated with increased radiation exposure linked to tomosynthesis.

At most modern-day Breast Care Centers, the latest technology is used, including low dose tomosynthesis that outputs the similar type of images as traditional tomosynthesis that has the radiation exposure level of the traditional mammography.

As Low Dose Mammography requires single exam, radiation exposure is significantly reduced.

By using Low Dose Mammography, we get all the advantages of a 3D mammogram like fewer false positives, more accurate detection rates, etc. with radiation rates that can be compared to a traditional 2D mammogram. 

Less Time

Using the latest technology the procedure takes only about 4 seconds. With a traditional 3D mammogram patients receive a 2D scan after a 3D scan.

Low Dose Mammography produces a 3D image and then creates a 2D image from the data collected from 3D scan decreasing compression time and causing lesser discomfort.

Less Chance of Being Called Back for More Imaging

Low Dose Mammography has been tested to reduce false-positive rates. It means that it reduces wastage of efforts as it detects correct findings.

The situation alternates between making them feel exhilarated and excited of the radiologist as they find correct outcomes. It also saves patients from trauma from false predictions.

Low Dose Mammography helps to increase cancer finding rates. If cancer is found earlier its treatment is easier. The annual mammogram is therefore very important.

Computerized Second Opinion

The computers used in 3D mammography employ a sophisticated analysis system called computer-aided detection (CAD).

After examining the images closely, radiologists consult the CAD system before issuing their final report. This combination of human interpretation and computer analysis increases early breast cancer detection by as much as 19%.

Improved Images in Dense Breast Tissue

Breasts consist of milk glands, milk ducts, and supportive tissue. Breasts are considered “dense” if they contain more supportive tissue than fatty glands or ducts.

Dense tissue and cancer both appear as white spots on a standard mammogram, which makes cancer more difficult to detect in dense breasts.

However, with 3D mammography, doctors can see beyond areas of density from a different angle, making it easier to detect the presence of cancer and reducing the number of false positives.

More Comfortable Screening

The breast compression needed during a classical mammogram is not comfortable for most women. It causes several women to delay scheduling their mammography.

Compression also leads few tissues to overlap, making a place for breast cancer to hide. Most 3D mammography machines only put ample pressure for the breast to stay in a stable position.

It makes this procedure much more relaxing without detracting from its effectiveness.

As per studies available online the findings reassures that 3D mammography is a decent mammogram for breast cancer detection. The results are very vital procedure leading toward updated policies so that all women may receive 3D mammography for detection.

Disadvantages of 3D Mammography

There are a few downsides of using tomosynthesis

As 3D mammography has more images of each breast there is more exposure to radiation during the procedure. Although the radiation is within the safe radiation levels prescribed by authorities in approved mammography images.

3D mammography using multiplex-rays to generate a 3D image that exposes patients to low levels of emissions.

2D mammograms also use x-rays, but as 3D screenings may get combined with standard mammograms the total radiation exposure can be comparatively more than using a 2D technology. 

Though most 3D machines generate both two and three-dimensional depictions simultaneously, It causes a decrease in the amount of total radiation.

Moreover, the arc of movement of the X-ray tube does vary it can lead to variations in the images. Overexposure to radiation is not good for humans and may lead to several effects on us. 

This approach is expensive

As it is the latest technology and it was developed by thorough research and experiments. The procedure of models with tomosynthesis is more expensive.

In fact, the maintenance costs are also higher. It cannot be an option for a mass as a big part of the population is below the poverty line or survive hands to mouth. If the budget is limited, one will be forced to have a regular mammography system.

Though one cannot deny the fact that classical mammography machines are sufficiently powerful and they meet the minimum standard in breast imaging.

Not Good in Detecting All types of Cancers

3D mammography is much better at detecting cancerous growths earlier than 2D screenings.

However, minute, difficult to see tumors will not be traced by this technology. No matter what type of imaging approach one chooses, they must continue to have breast cancer tracing each year and meet their doctor for a physical breast exam.

Overdiagnosis

“Overdiagnosis” is a polarizing word in mammography. It is because of the false-positive interpretations that cause unnecessary recalls.

As for all procedures of investigations, using 3d mammography technology usually has overdiagnosis as consequence.

The latest research has shown a non-significant increase or a decrease in the false positive rate as compared to the classical 2D mammography approach.

Reading time

Using 3D mammography takes a longer time. It is needed for the interpretation of the mammographic images generated.

The experimental clinical research suggested a mean reading time for 2D plus 3D of 80 sec. as compared with 30 sec. for 2D mammography only, though this disadvantage is overshadowed by the better tracing by 3D technology.

Moreover, studies have shown that if technological support as computer-aided tracing is more reliable tool to speed up reading time.

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