Tomosynthesis is the newest FDA-approved imaging technology for the screening of breast cancer that takes standard digital mammography to a higher level – 3D. The procedure is just like a regular mammogram except while your breast is in gentle compression, the x-ray tube rotates around the breast to provide additional images without a significant increase in exam time or radiation. These extra images are then processed by a computer so the radiologist has additional images of your breast to review. Take an example involving a loaf of bread. If the bread loaf got a traditional mammogram, two pictures would be taken: one from the side and one from the top. However, with tomosynthesis, in addition to seeing the top and sides of the loaf, the radiologist can also look at the individual slices of bread. These “slices” allow for a more detailed exam, catching breast cancer earlier and when it is smaller. Tomosynthesis also reduces unnecessary follow-up exams (callbacks) for dense, overlapping breast tissue that would look suspicious with traditional mammograms. An added bonus is that less compression is typically required with tomosynthesis when compared with standard digital mammography, meaning less patient discomfort.
Patients can prepare for tomosynthesis just as they would for a mammogram:
After check-in, the mammography technologist will take you to a dressing room where you can change into a robe/gown and store your belongings in a locker. The technologist will take you to the exam room where your breast will be placed in gentle compression in the mammography unit. Two to three views of each breast will be obtained, allowing for the tomosynthesis images to be made. Your entire exam will last approximately 10-15 minutes.