The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

3D mammography improves detection


October 31, 2019

Kim E. Strom/Daily Globe

Samantha Schneller, lead mammographer, left, demonstrates on Kailey Korpi how mammographies are performed with the new 3-D mammography machine at Aspirus Ironwood Hospital Wednesday. The new technology has a 41% increase in detecting invasive breast cancers over 2-D technology and is now available locally.


Ironwood - All mammographies help detect breast cancer before it is big enough to feel and before symptoms are obvious, but the benefits of having a 3-dimensional mammography as opposed to having a 2-D image taken of the breast is a lot like having a CAT scan as opposed to an X-ray, said Aspirus Ironwood staff radiologist Dr. John Pietila, Wednesday in an interview with the Daily Globe.

The technology is fairly new to Aspirus Ironwood with the hospital having acquired the machine in March of this year. "It is becoming the standard of care in most hospitals," said Pietila. "It's a completely new machine and is very cutting edge." Aspirus now has a 3-D mammography machine in all four Upper Peninsula sites: Keweenaw, Ontonagon, Iron River and Ironwood, he said.

According to a hospital press release, 3-D mammography has a 41% increase in the detection of invasive breast cancers over 2-D technology. It results in a 20-40% decrease in being recalled for additional testing. In addition, it can detect breast cancers 15 months earlier than conventional mammograms.

With 3-D technology, the machine looks very similar to the 2-D mammography machine. The screening is basically the same procedure except with the 3-D machine, the top takes pictures in a sweeping motion from left to right, where as with the 2-D machine, the top stays stationary, said lead mammographer Samantha Schneller. The breast is compressed in both types of machines, and the time it takes to image is about the same. But 3-D takes a little longer to read, said Pietila.

Although all women can benefit from this technology, it is especially beneficial for women who have been told they have dense breasts (breasts that have a lot of fibrous or glandular tissues), said Pietila.

In 2-D mammography, there is an overlap effect that may result in misdiagnoses, according to the press release from Aspirus. This isn't an issue with 3-D technology. The 3-D technology allows the radiologist to look at the breast tissue one layer at a time.

Not all insurances cover the extra cost of a 3-D mammogram. To inquire if your insurance does pay, you will need three codes: screening mammogram 77063 and diagnostic mammogram 77061 and 77062. Otherwise, it can be paid for out-of-pocket at a cost of $225, said Schneller. Medicare is one of the insurances that does cover it, she said.

It's important to remember that even the 2-D technology detects cancers early, and it is better than taking no preventative care at all, said Pietila. In fact, 2-D images are a part of the 3-D imaging process, he said. Aspirus offers both.

According to the press release, the American Cancer Society recommends that women at average risk of breast cancer have annual mammograms starting at age 45.


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