Mammograms and Other Breast Imaging Tests

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Newer techniques for improving mammograms

Although a mammogram is a good way to find most breast cancers when they are small and most curable, it does not detect all breast cancers. Newer techniques are being looked at to try to make mammograms more accurate.

Tomosynthesis (3D mammography)

This technology is basically an extension of a digital mammogram. For this test, the breast is compressed once and a machine takes many low-dose x-rays as it moves over the breast in an arc. The images can then be combined into a 3-dimensional picture. This uses more radiation than most standard 2-view mammograms, but it may allow doctors to see – dense areas areas more clearly. Some studies have suggested it might lower the chance that the patient will be called back for unnecessary tests. It may also be able to find more cancers.

A breast tomosynthesis machine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2011 for use in the United States, but the role of this technology in screening and diagnosis is still not clear. Not all health insurance covers tomosynthesis, so you may want to check with your insurance company if this is recommended for you.


Last Medical Review: 12/10/2013
Last Revised: 11/05/2014