UPDATE: 3D mammography at Crestwood Women’s Center reduces patient call backs, identifies more cases of cancer

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Throughout October, breast cancer is at the forefront of our minds, and Crestwood Women’s Center is on the forefront of mammography technology. A little less than 4 months ago in the first part the July, the center began offering 3D mammograms through 3D tomosynthesis.

So far, Crestwood Medical Center’s management said they have seen a decrease in the number of patient call backs, and they have identified more cases of cancer they might have missed otherwise. Definite numbers showing the progress will not be available until next July after they have worked with the technology for a year.

In July, we profiled this new technology:

“Saving lives, that’s what we’re in the business of,” said Julie McCain, Breast Care Manager at Crestwood Women’s Center.

That purpose is the driving point for bringing new 3D mammography technology to the Crestwood Women’s Center in Huntsville. In mid-July, the center will offer 3D exams as an alternative to their conventional 2D mammography technology.

Currently, radiologists say overlapping tissue in a patient’s breast causes doctors to miss small breast cancers.  Another issue is the potential of normal tissue’s appearance that may look abnormal, causing unnecessary callbacks. The number of patient callbacks is something radiologists hope the new technology decreases.

“We’ve caused them anxiety and stress for what ends up being not a breast cancer,” McCain said.

The mammography machine will use tomosynthesis technology to make the 3D breast scans. During the 3D portion of the exam, an X-ray arm sweeps in a slight arc over the breast, taking multiple images.  A computer then converts the images into a stack of thin layers, allowing the radiologist to review the breast tissue one layer at a time.  A 3D Mammogram requires no additional compression and takes just a few seconds longer than a conventional 2D breast cancer screening exam.

“What that tomosynthesis will allow us to do is take pictures through that scar bed to make sure that this is just scar and there’s no mass underlying there,” McCain said.

Radiologists said this technology will be especially beneficial for some patients.

“People who have a lot more glandular tissue than fat, it’s a little harder to see through the overlapping tissue. So we’re hoping the new technology will decrease the number of false negatives,” Dr. Libby Shadinger said.

Because the technology is so new, there is not information available yet on how costly the 3D scans will be compared to the 2D scans.