16:06 PM

The Importance of 3-D Mammograms for Dense Breasts

3-D mammography offered at seven Breast Health Services locations

Whether you are preparing for your first mammogram or have been faithfully undergoing annual mammograms for years, chances are you’ve either heard the term “dense breast tissue” or have been told that your breast tissue is dense. About half of women undergoing mammogram testing have dense breast tissue. But what exactly does that mean? And how does that affect you and your mammogram?

Dense Breasts Defined

On a mammogram, dense breast tissue appears as a solid white area, while fatty breast tissue appears dark and transparent. While all women have a mixture of both types of tissue, women with dense breasts have more dense tissue than fatty tissue. And because dense breast tissue and cancer both appear white on a mammogram, accurately interpreting a mammogram for a woman with dense breasts becomes tricky.

While it’s unclear why some women have dense breasts, doctors do know that having dense breasts may mean an increased risk of breast cancer and an increased chance that your breast cancer may go undetected by a traditional 2-D mammogram. Fortunately, 3-D mammography is available locally through Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN).

Understanding 3-D Mammography

3-D mammography (also called tomosynthesis) allows radiologists to view your breast as several thin slices that run through the entire thickness of the breast. Radiologist Priya K. Sareen, MD, with Medical Imaging of Lehigh Valley, PC, suggests picturing mammography like a book. “A standard 2-D image allows your doctor to view the cover and the binding,” Sareen says. “while the 3-D mammograms produce images of each page.”

With 3-D images, radiologists can detect smaller lesions or those that may be hiding within dense tissue. According to Sareen, 3-D mammograms take only a few extra seconds of breast compression and reduce false positives up to 40 percent while detecting 41 percent more invasive breast cancers.

“Images from 3-D mammography make it easier to see fine details more clearly,” she says, “which leads to better accuracy and few callbacks for additional screening.”

3-D mammography/tomosynthesis is available at these Breast Health Services and Digital Mammography Services locations:

  • Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Cedar Crest
  • LVH–Muhlenberg
  • LVH–17th Street
  • Health Center at Bartonsville
  • Health Center at Bethlehem Township
  • Health Center at Moselem Springs
  • Health Center at Trexlertown
  • Health & Wellness Center at Hazleton

For scheduling information, visit LVHN.org/mammo.