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The importance of finding breast cancer early

The goal of screening tests for breast cancer is to find it before it causes symptoms (like a lump that can be felt). Screening refers to tests and exams used to find a disease in people who don’t have any symptoms.

Early detection means finding and diagnosing a disease earlier than might have happened if you’d waited for symptoms to start. Breast cancers found during screening exams are more likely to be small and still confined to the breast. The size of a breast cancer and how far it has spread are some of the most important factors in predicting the prognosis (outlook) of a woman with this disease.

Most doctors feel that early detection tests for breast cancer help save thousands of lives each year and that many more lives could be saved if even more women and their healthcare providers took advantage of these tests. Following the American Cancer Society’s guidelines for the early detection of breast cancer improves the chances that it can be found early and treated successfully.

Early detection tests for breast cancer help save thousands of lives each year.

For women at average risk

Mammograms should begin at age 40 and should continue every year, as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 or more years. These guidelines are for women at average risk for breast cancer. Women with a personal history of breast cancer, a family history of breast cancer, a genetic mutation known to increase the risk of breast cancer (such as BRCA), and women who had radiation therapy to the chest before the age of 30 are at higher risk for breast cancer, not average risk.

All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations and potential harms associated with breast cancer screening. They should also be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to a healthcare provider right away.

For more information or to schedule a mammogram, call your physician today.

Digital breast tomosynthesis, or 3-D mammography

What is a 3-D mammography exam?

3-D mammography is much like your annual mammogram but far more accurate in early detection. Tomosynthesis works by capturing multiple slices or images of your breast from several angles. A computer then produces a 3-D image in 1-millimeter slices. The radiologist will review the images, one slice at a time, making it easier for them to see if there is anything to be concerned about.

What are the benefits of 3-D mammography?

With conventional 2-D mammography, the radiologist is viewing overlapped tissues of breast in one flat 2-D image. This can give an illusion of an abnormality even though the breast tissue is normal. Looking at the breast tissue in 1-millimeter slices, the radiologist can provide a more accurate assessment. According to, 3-D mammography finds 41 percent more invasive cancers than conventional 2-D mammography. It also means that there is less chance of you being called back for a second look because of overlapped normal structures.

What should I expect during the 3-D mammography exam?

3-D mammography complements the standard 2-D exam and is performed at the same time, with the same system. There is no additional compression required, and it only takes a few seconds longer for each view.

Who can have 3-D mammography?

We recommend all women get a 3-D mammogram as part of their annual breast imaging exam. It can be performed as a screening or diagnostic exam.

What if I choose not to undergo a 3-D mammogram?

A state-of-the-art standard 2-D mammogram will be performed.

Will my insurance cover 3-D mammography?

Because 3-D mammography is fairly new, some insurance companies do not cover the additional charge for 3-D mammography, which is $60 ($30 hospital charge and $30 radiologist charge). Note: You will get a separate bill from the radiologist for the reading fees.

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