3D screening mammograms save lives
Posted at 6:32 p.m. on Monday, October 10, 2022
Every year I list breast cancer statistics, risk factors and prevention recommendations. And while we may see a decline in cancer statistics over time, the year-over-year numbers don’t change much. So this year I want to do something different and focus on breast cancer screening.
Screenings and follow-up appointments aren’t much fun, and if you’re a cancer survivor, those appointments can be stressful too. Add to that something called the COVID-19 pandemic, and a disturbing situation had an unexpected side effect; women are postponing annual screening appointments to stay away from potentially infected people. And that choice may have increased your risk.
All cancer screenings, including mammograms, have taken a nose dive in the United States since COVID-19. Although you may have delayed or canceled your screening, Cancer doesn’t have a pause button.
Worldwide, breast cancer remains the most common cancer in women. In America, breast cancer is the leading cause of premature death in women and is the second leading cause of all cancer deaths.
So, with this article, it’s time to make a new to-do list. At the top of the list is a breast cancer screening. We know that early detection reduces breast cancer morbidity and mortality.
What if we could see lesions more clearly, detect breast cancer earlier and reduce unnecessary biopsies?
In 2021, St. Luke’s went live with Hologic Selenia Dimensions, a premier 3D mammography platform, the only FDA-approved mammography. A 3D mammogram combines multiple x-rays of the breast to create a three-dimensional image of the breast. We use this technology to look for breast cancer in people with no symptoms and to look for the causes of breast problems such as pain, a lump or nipple discharge.
Our new platform can take a picture of breasts in much more detail, making it easier to see unexpected growths. As a result, 3D mammograms detect up to sixty-five percent more invasive breast cancers, reduce false positives by about forty percent, and recall rates by more than fifty percent. In addition, during a 3D mammogram, your breasts will be compressed like during a 2D mammogram, and there is no more discomfort than during the traditional test.
Our Hologic system creates standard 3D and 2D mammography images during breast cancer screenings. We have learned that the combination of the two increases cancer detection sensitivity while reducing the need for additional imaging. 3D mammography takes multiple images moving in a small arc around the breast. Once the images are stitched together, our radiologist looks through the breast tissue one layer at a time. With this higher level of detail, the radiologist can find cancer smaller than three millimeters. Most of these cancers are not visible in 2D. This technology has been a boon to women in Polk County.
The American Society of Breast Surgeons recommends that all women have a screening mammogram starting at age 40. And for those at higher risk of developing breast cancer, annual screenings should begin at age thirty-five. With screening at a younger age, we have seen measurable reductions in breast cancer deaths in this age group. The implications of these numbers support screening for breast cancer in healthy women aged 70 and over.
What are the costs?
Health insurance usually provides partial or full coverage for screening or diagnostic 3D mammograms. Consult your insurer’s terms and conditions to find out their level of coverage. The Polk County Community Foundation’s Ann Jacob Toms Fund enabled St. Luke’s Hospital to provide free annual 3-D mammograms to people in Polk County without insurance. To be eligible, you must:
- to be uninsured
- be at least forty years old
- have no current breast problems
- be a resident of Polk County, North Carolina
- not having had a screening mammogram in the last twelve months
To learn more about 3D screening mammograms at St. Luke’s, call (828) 894-0990 or visit StLukesNC.org/radiology and StLukesNC.org/cancer.
If you have a healthcare topic of interest or would like to learn more about St. Luke’s Hospital, send me a note at [email protected] Please also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or visit our website at StLukesNC.org.