What is a 3D Mammogram? Breast Cancer Awareness
If you’re approaching 40, a certain dread may be building—maybe not about wrinkles, but about having to start getting mammograms. It’s easy to focus on the intimidating parts of this process—a lot of us worry about whether it’ll hurt or what the exam will find. But with 3D mammography from the caring providers at OB-GYN Associates of Alabama, getting a breast cancer screening doesn’t have to be so scary.
It may be a coincidence that Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Halloween fall in the same month, but we know that breast health can be frightening for many women. That’s why we’re here to demystify mammograms and talk about the leading-edge medical advancements that make early detection easier than ever before!
How Regular 2D Mammograms Work
A mammogram is simply a specialized type of x-ray that specifically looks at breast tissue. For other types of x-rays, you typically stand or sit in front of a machine as the radiologist (x-ray operator) takes pictures. Mammograms are slightly different in that they require a unique machine with plastic plates that flatten out the breast.
Compression is a necessary part of the screening process. We do this not to be cruel, but because it spreads out the tissue, helping us clearly identify changes in the breast such as:
- Lumps and masses
- Calcifications (hard calcium deposits in breast tissue)
- Other distortions or abnormalities in the tissue that could indicate cancer
Compressing the breast also means the x-rays have a thinner layer of tissue to pass through, so mammograms can use less radiation than other imaging techniques. That lower dose of radiation makes them safer for you!
How 3D Mammograms Are Different
Regular, 2D mammograms typically take two pictures of each breast: one from above, and one from the side. A 3D mammogram, also called digital breast tomosynthesis, takes pictures in an arc, producing many images from different angles. When we load all of these pictures into the computer, we get a highly detailed 3D model of each breast.
These detailed models make it easier for us to catch more of the hard-to-see cancers that 2D mammograms can miss, giving 3D mammograms an added advantage. They can also help us reduce the number of false breast cancer alarms by giving us more ways to look at a potential abnormality. That means less unnecessary stress, worry, and follow-up tests!
What Happens in a 3D Mammogram
3D mammograms are performed the same way as their 2D counterparts. In fact, at OB/GYN Associates of Alabama, we take both types at the same time for the most comprehensive (and convenient) breast cancer exam possible.
During your appointment, your provider will guide you to a mammography machine and place your breast between two plastic compression plates. For just 10 to 15 seconds, the plates will press down and take a picture. Then, the technician will reposition your breast for one more image. Once you’ve done this on each breast, you’re done! The whole process from start to finish usually doesn’t take more than 10 minutes.
How painful is a 3D mammogram?
During and after a mammogram, you may feel some aching or discomfort, but it shouldn’t be unbearable. At OB-GYN Associates of Alabama, our technicians take special care to make your experience as comfortable as possible. Simply let us know if the process is too painful, and we’ll do whatever we can to adjust.
If you are still menstruating, we also recommend that you try to schedule your procedure the week after your period when your breasts are less tender.
Too many women avoid this life-saving procedure because they’ve either heard of or undergone an unpleasant experience with it in the past. But with the right provider on your side, you can take control of your health with confidence!
Who Needs a 3D Mammogram
Both 3D and 2D mammograms are excellent breast cancer screening options, which is why we perform both in our office. For women with a normal risk of breast cancer, we recommend regular screenings every 1–2 years beginning at age 40. You may even want to set a baseline reading at age 35—talk to your doctor about your options.
If you have a history of breast cancer in your family, tell your provider so we can get you started on screenings early. We typically recommend starting mammograms when you are 5–10 years younger than the age at which your relative was diagnosed.
3D mammograms are especially useful for women who have dense breasts, as they allow for a more detailed and in-depth look through thicker tissues. If you’ve been told you have dense breasts, we recommend seeking out a provider with this advanced technology.
Early Breast Cancer Detection Matters!
We know that walking up to that mammogram machine, and even thinking about breast cancer, can be intimidating. But the fact is, when caught and treated early, breast cancer has a 99% 5-year survival rate. Finding it fast with regular mammograms can mean the difference between a brief treatment plan and losing your breast—or losing years off the long and beautiful life you have yet to live.
For the most advanced, accurate, and comfortable mammogram experience, visit OB-GYN Associates of Alabama. We’re taking new patients at our three convenient locations throughout the Birmingham metro: downtown (St. Vincent’s), Hoover (Hwy 119, near 280), and Gardendale (Decatur Hwy/Hwy 31). Commit to your health by scheduling your mammogram today!
Find Advanced 3D Mammography in Birmingham, AL
Since 1969, OB-GYN Associates of Alabama has been providing compassionate and comprehensive care to women in the Birmingham metro community. We’re always seeking the latest advancements to make women’s health safe, comfortable, and effective for all. Request your appointment online today or call (205) 271-1600!