What Is a 3D Mammography?

A 3D mammography, also known as Digital Breast Tomosynthesis, is an advanced imaging test that uses multiple x-rays to put together a three-dimensional picture of your breast. This allows the Radiologist to examine your breast tissue—layer by layer—and have a clear picture of any abnormalities in the breast area.

If you’ve been regularly attending annual mammography screenings, or this is your first one, you may have questions about which test will provide the most accurate analysis, and what you can expect during the procedure.

At The Breast Center of Maple Grove, we want every woman who walks through our doors to feel confident and empowered to take a proactive role in her health and wellness journey. That means having a strong understanding of your options when it comes to choosing a mammography, and what’s involved in the process.

Below, you’ll find an overview of what a 3D mammography is, how it differs from a traditional 2D mammogram, and how you can prepare for this procedure.

3D Mammography vs. 2D Mammogram

As technologies continue to advance, we have greater access to equipment and procedures that allows us to diagnose health issues affecting women, like breast cancer, easier and earlier. 

3D mammography is one such advancement. The procedure, itself, is performed in much the same way as a traditional 2D mammogram. However, during a 3D mammogram, the Radiologist and technician will take multiple x-rays of your breast, from various angles. 

The images are then compiled together to create a 3D visual of your breast vs. a flat image (as you would have with 2D imaging). In fact, using the 3D image, the Radiologist can easily detect tumors, or other abnormalities, that may have otherwise been hidden by overlapping tissue on a 2D mammogram.

This isn’t to say that a 2D mammogram is not effective in detecting breast cancer. However, according to a 2019 study, it was reported that when compared to traditional 2D mammograms, 3D mammograms reported fewer false positives and were considered more effective in women ages 65 and older.

How accurate are 3d mammograms?

In addition to the study mentioned above, 3D mammography has been shown to benefit women with dense breasts, in particular. Yet, more studies continue to reveal benefits for women with breasts of any density.

For instance, another study reported that 3D mammography was more likely to find smaller, node-negative breast cancer (which means they did not spread to the lymph nodes) compared to breast cancers detected using standard digital mammography (i.e., 2D).

Is a 3d mammogram better for me?

According to the American Society of Breast Surgeons, it’s recommended that women aged 40 and older should undergo annual 3D mammography breast screening. They also recommend that if you are at a higher-than-average risk of breast cancer, you should undergo annual screenings, starting at a much earlier age (35 years old).

The decision is entirely up to you and your doctor. Be sure to discuss any concerns you may have about which mammogram is right for you and your individual circumstance. If you have questions, or would like to know more about these two procedures, our team will be happy to help!

Please give us a call or visit our service pages on 3D mammogramsdigital screening mammography, and diagnostic mammography for helpful FAQs about these procedures and how they differ. 

What to expect during a 3D mammogram

This procedure will look and feel very similar to a traditional mammogram. You will be asked to stand at the machine, placing one of your breasts on a plate. Your breast is then compressed against the plate by another plate, during which time, an x-ray is taken. With a 2D mammogram, two x-ray images are taken and then repeated on the other breast. 

As we mentioned with 3D mammograms, the Radiologists will need to capture multiple images of your breast tissue to form a complete 3D image. Therefore, during the screening, the x-ray arm will sweep in a small arc over the breast to capture these images from various angles. As this is the case, it will take a few seconds longer to get each image. 

Schedule your mammogram today!

Whether you’d like to request your first, or annual mammogram, our team is here to help! To schedule your appointment, please fill out our online form, or call us directly at (763) 398-6370. Remember that our care team is always here to listen to your concerns and answer any questions you may have.

We look forward to being a part of your journey to better women’s health! 

9 Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Breast cancer occurs when the cells in your breast change (or mutate) and grow in an uncontrolled way. This creates a mass of tissue known as a tumor. Breast cancer can invade the tissue surrounding your breast, or it may travel to other parts of the body to form new tumors.

About 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. Although breast cancer rates in the United States are actually decreasing, breast cancer is still the second leading cause of cancer death among women—second only to lung cancer.

Who Is at High Risk for Breast Cancer?

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, breast cancer may be the result of genetic or environmental factors, or sometimes a combination of both.

Below, we’ve listed a few generic risk factors to be aware of:

Your Gender

Although breast cancer affects both men and women, less than 1% of all new breast cancer cases happen in men. Women are significantly more likely to develop breast cancer than men.

Your Age

The risk of breast cancer increases with age. While breast cancer can happen earlier, it is most common in women over age 55.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS):

  • Approximately 1 out of 8 invasive breast cancers develop in women younger than 45.
  • Approximately 2 out of every 3 invasive breast cancers are found in women 55 or older.

Your Family History

Having a family history of breast cancer increases your risk, as well. If a close relative, like a parent, sibling or child, was diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, you have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the future.

Your Menstrual and Reproductive History

Beginning menstruation before the age of 12, or beginning menopause after age 55, can increase your risk for breast cancer. In addition, having your first child at an older age or never giving birth at all can increase your risk.

Environmental Causes of Breast Cancer

In addition to genetic causes, your lifestyle and habits can also put you at greater risk for developing breast cancer. We’ve listed a few examples below:

Your Activity Level

If you spend most of the day sitting with very little physical activity, you may increase your risk for breast cancer.

Your Diet

If your diet consists of high saturated fats with little fruits and vegetables, this, too, can increase your risk.

Your Weight

In addition to exercise and food, being overweight or obese can increase your risk. According to ACS, if you are overweight and have already gone through menopause, this risk increases even more.

Your Alcohol Consumption  

The higher the number of alcoholic beverages you drink each day, the higher chance you have of developing breast cancer:

“Women who have 1 alcoholic drink a day have a small (about 7% to 10%) increase in risk compared with those who don’t drink, while women who have 2 to 3 drinks a day have about a 20% higher risk,” (ACS).

Your Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy

Treating menopause symptoms with hormone therapy medications that include estrogen and progesterone, also called hormone replacement therapy, puts you at increased risk for breast cancer.

Can You Get Breast Cancer at 14 or Younger?

Breast cancer is very rare in teenagers. Changes in breast size, for instance, is a normal part of puberty. However, if breast cancer runs in your family, it’s important to educate your teen on the importance of regular breast exams, as well as mammograms when they get older, to improve early detection.

This may also present an opportunity to discuss the type of environmental risk factors we noted earlier, and educate your teen on how to avoid them.

How to Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer

Pursuing a healthy lifestyle that combines nutrition with physical activity is one of the first steps to combating breast cancer and other illnesses. However, as there are other factors that can put you at higher risk for developing this disease, knowing these risks, as well as getting annual screening mammograms, beginning at age 40, are effective ways to catch breast cancer in its earliest, most treatable stage.

At The Breast Center of Maple Grove, we make it easy to fit your annual mammogram into your busy schedule. We offer convenient, same-day appointments every Monday through Friday 7:30am-5:00pm. We also offer extended hours from 7am-8pm, Monday-Wednesday, and we can accommodate walk-ins.

If you’re due for your mammogram, you can make an appointment now, or walk right into our center conveniently located across from Maple Grove Hospital.

First Mammogram? Here’s What You Can Expect

Did you recently schedule your first mammogram? If so, great job! A mammogram is an incredibly valuable screening exam that can help detect cancers at their earliest, most treatable stages.

Every woman’s first mammogram experience is deeply personal, but it can feel slightly invasive to some. In fact, it can leave even the fiercest females with lingering questions beforehand, including:

  • How do I prepare for a mammogram?
  • What should I expect during the breast exam?
  • What will compression feel like?
  • How long does the exam take?
  • Do I really need a mammogram every year?

By learning how to prepare for your first mammogram, and what you can expect during the exam, you can quickly eliminate many of these questions that may be causing you to feel anxious.

Of course, if you have questions beforehand, we invite you to contact us for support and to address your concerns. We want you to feel confident and empowered on your journey to better health and wellness!

To help put your mind at ease, we’ve compiled a few answers to the questions listed above.

How to Prepare for Your First Mammogram

Rest assured that preparing for your first mammogram is simple! Below we’ve listed a few things you’ll want to keep in mind before the exam:

  • Choose the right time: Be sure to schedule your mammogram during the week following your period, when your breasts are less tender. This may help reduce discomfort from compression during the exam.
  • Avoid wearing deodorant, powder, or lotion: Don’t wear deodorant, powder, or lotion near your breasts or your underarms on the day of your exam. Sometimes, these products can look like calcium spots on mammogram images, which may interfere with an accurate diagnosis.
  • Send previous mammogram images: If you’ve had a previous mammogram at a different facility, ask to have a copy of the images transferred to The Breast Center of Maple Grove. Prior images allow the radiologist to see changes over time, which is critical in diagnosing very early stage breast cancers.
  • Wear no-fuss clothing: Choose clothes that are easy to take on and off and be sure to wear a two-piece outfit so you can remove just the top portion for your exam.
  • Avoid wearing jewelry: You will need to remove your jewelry—especially earrings and necklaces—before the exam. It’s best not to wear jewelry that day so you don’t have to worry about storing it or losing it.

What To Expect During a Mammogram

An experienced female technologist will conduct your mammogram.

First, she’ll ask you questions about your personal medical history and relevant family history. If you have any questions about your exam, your technologist will be happy to answer them and help you feel comfortable.

Next, you’ll change into a warm soft robe, removing all jewelry and accessories.

Afterward, the technologist will position your breast between two plates, which will then compress the breast while an image is taken. The technologist will reposition the breast, which will be compressed and imaged again.

Finally, the process will be repeated on the other breast.

Guess what? That’s it! The actual exam portion takes less than 10 minutes to complete.

Getting Your Mammogram Results

Your mammogram images will be read by a board certified radiologist, who will send a full report to your referring physician.

If you are one of the approximately 40% of women in America with dense breast tissue, you’ll also receive a letter with this information. Dense breast tissue and cancer both appear white on mammogram images, which can make it more difficult to diagnose breast cancer.

If you have dense breast tissue, there are additional breast imaging options available, including ultrasound and MRI. Speak with your doctor to decide what is right for you.

After reviewing the screening mammogram images, the radiologist may need to get a closer look at a particular area of breast tissue. In that case, you may be called back to the breast center for a diagnostic mammogram.

This does not mean you have cancer! Nearly 90% of patients who are called back for a diagnostic mammogram are not diagnosed with cancer. However, it is important to follow up and have additional imaging if recommended by the radiologist.

What Will Compression Feel Like?

Though compression can be uncomfortable, it is well-tolerated by most women. It’s also very important. It allows the breast tissue to spread and flatten. This guarantees a clear view of the breast and reduces the radiation needed to capture detailed images of the breast tissue.

If you’re concerned about feeling discomfort, it may help to take an over-the-counter pain medication about an hour before your appointment.

If you have any questions or concerns about the procedure, our team is here to help! Give us a call, so we can answer your questions.

How Long Is a Mammogram? 

The entire mammogram procedure will take about 30 minutes to complete. This includes the consultation beforehand with the technologist. Your technologist will help you get into the proper position and then each breast will be compressed for about 30 seconds.

When Should You Get Your First Mammogram?

Most radiologists agree that the average woman should begin receiving annual screening mammograms at age 40. Women at higher risk, or with additional risk factors, may need screening mammograms earlier or more often.

It’s always best to talk with your doctor to decide how early, or how often, you should get a mammogram.

Are Mammograms Really Necessary Every Year?

For most women, the answer is yes! Experts from the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Radiology, and the physicians at The Breast Center of Maple Grove agree that most women at average risk should receive annual mammograms.

The goal of a screening mammogram is to diagnose breast cancer in its earliest stages, when treatments tend to be more effective, and survival rates are higher. It’s not just another mammogram, it’s a proactive step to ensure your health moving forward.

Here are a few other reasons you’ll want to consider:

  • Early Detection Saves Lives: When breast cancer is diagnosed and treated in the earliest stages, treatments tend to be more effective, and survival rates are higher.
  • Comparison Images are Helpful: If certain areas of breast tissue change over time, it could be an indicator of a potential cancer. When you get a mammogram every year, your radiologist can use these images to see exactly what has changed, and whether there is something to be concerned about.
  • A Normal Mammogram Isn’t Guaranteed Every Year: Even if you’ve had normal mammograms in the past, breast tissue can change. When it comes to your breast health, it’s better to be safe and proactive!


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