CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — New mammography machines are giving women in Eastern Iowa the option of 3D breast exams instead of standard two-dimensional exams.
The new testing gives doctors a more clear and precise look at breast tissue.
Saint Luke’s Hospital, Mercy Medical Center, Radiology Consultants of Iowa (RCI). and OB-GYN Associates are all investing in the technology.
“If you look at a 2D book, you can look at the cover, and you can look at the other cover, but it’s really hard to see what’s in between,” said Dr. Laura Hemann, a radiologist at RCI in Cedar Rapids. “If you now take that book and open it and look at each page individually, that’s what this technology is allowing us to do.”
She says this is the first time the technology has been offered anywhere in Eastern Iowa outside the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
The upgrade allows more doctors to detect tumors and abnormalities more quickly and accurately.
“We can now look at every single layer of breast, in very, very thin increments,” Dr. Hemann said.
She explained how some women’s breast tissue may have the same density as a tumor, making it difficult to differentiate between the two.
These new machines address that problem.
“3D basically allows us to go in layer-by-layer as we look,” she said.
Becky Albert decided to use the 3D machine for the first time in May.
She visited RCI for her annual mammogram, which up until this point, was always 2D.
“Then I was called back for a second mammogram, and also an ultrasound and biopsy that same day,” Albert said.
Doctors found a cancerous tumor in her breast.
On June 9 Albert underwent surgery to remove the lump.
Luckily, she will not have to undergo chemotherapy, but will begin a six week radiation program Tuesday.
Albert credits the 3D testing for her fast detection.
“They said it was a more specialized testing so I thought, ‘Why not?’” she said. “If I had a regular mammogram, it might not have been caught.”
The 3D exam captures about 100 images of the breast, while the traditional 2D test only captures four images per patient.
Those who support the technology say 3D testing increases the detection of invasive breast cancers by 41% and the detection of all breast cancers by 29%, when compared to the standard 2D scans.
“We’re hoping 3D allows us to catch even those smaller, smaller tumors,” Dr. Hemann said. “So that we can push that into a survival advantage.”
The 3D exams cost patients about 50 dollars more than standard exams.
Right now, that expense is not covered by insurance.
But hospitals are hopeful companies will begin coverage for the expanded test starting in January 2015.