3D mammogram technology

Photo by Michael Johnson

Kelly Young, X-ray, mammogram and bone density scan technician at Indiana University Health White Memorial Hospital, shows Brandy Edwards, diagnostic imaging manager, the hospital’s relatively new breast tomosynthesis equipment – also known as 3-D mammography technology.

MONTICELLO — There’s a relatively new device at Indiana University Health White Memorial Hospital that’s intended to help women better detect breast cancer.

The Monticello hospital now has breast tomosynthesis unit — also known as 3-D mammography — so patients don’t have to travel far from home for the exams. It was installed in January.

“This leading-edge technology reveals greater detail, which may help us detect cancer sooner,” said Brandy Edwards, diagnostic imaging manager at IU Health White. “We believe it’s important to broaden our geographic reach so that women across the region have access to 3D mammography.”

It works much like traditional mammography. During the 3D portion of the exam, an X-ray arm sweeps over the breast, taking multiple images in seconds. Edwards said this is especially good for women with dense breast tissue because the dense tissue is difficult to see through on standard 2D imaging. The 3D imaging, she said, allows the radiologist to scroll through that tissue in extremely thin layers, “like looking at each page of a book instead of just the front cover.”

More than 80 percent of breast cancer cases are discovered when the woman feels a lump. The earliest breast cancers are detected by a mammogram and tomosynthesis.

“Tomosynthesis gives us the ability to see masses, particularly in dense breast tissue, that we might have difficulty detecting with traditional mammography,” said Dr. Phyllis Martin-Simmerman, a specialist in breast imaging for IU Health Arnett Physicians Radiology in Lafayette. “Because it reduces the overlap of tissue, most investigators have found that it leads to fewer callbacks and therefore less anxiety for women.”

Edwards said that a majority of the time, something like a cyst or a milk gland duct that is clogged is the culprit of a knot in the breast. The tomosynthesis unit is able to detect it and discern it from an actual tumor.

She added that the unit is sometimes a better option for patients than a self-breast exam.

“Not every woman is comfortable doing it, and not every woman that comes in for an exam knows that there’s anything going on with her breast due to the size or density of their breast,” Edwards said. “Some can’t be detected because of location or its size; some that are Tic-Tac-sized can be lost in the breast tissue. Mammograms are a way to detect something that patients may already know or not know that they have.”

The breast exam technology is available from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday, and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.

It will also be available the next two Saturdays — Oct. 19 and Oct. 26 — from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.