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Common Questions from Our Portsmouth, VA Community


3D Mammography

The Future of Breast Cancer Screening
Screening Mammography - Mammography in Portsmouth, VA
It is well known that screening mammography saves lives. It is the best tool currently available for the detection of early breast cancer. Women who get yearly screening mammograms beginning at age 40 decrease their chances of dying from breast cancer by 30 percent. Despite this, mammograms are not perfect – they do not detect approximately 10 percent of breast cancers. One of mammography's major limitations is that it depicts a three-dimensional object (the breast) as a two–dimensional image. The resulting overlap of tissue can hide cancers, making them more difficult to detect.
Recent advances in technology have sought to fix this problem and the result has been the development of 3D mammography, also known as tomosynthesis. During a 3D mammogram, the camera takes multiple images at different angles allowing the radiologist to view the breast “layer by layer.” This provides greater detail and reduces tissue overlap which, in turn, allows the radiologist to detect cancers that might otherwise be hidden.

Recent studies have shown that 3D mammography increases cancer detection by 35 percent and also significantly reduces the chance of a woman being called back for additional testing. This technology is highly beneficial for women with dense breast tissue and those at high risk for breast cancer. However, experts believe that 3D mammography can benefit all women and over time will become the gold standard in breast cancer screening and detection.
Who should have a 3D mammogram?
  • It is approved for all women undergoing screening or diagnostic mammography.
Is it a separate exam or part of my regular mammogram?
  • 3D mammography is used together with your regular (2D) mammogram. They are performed at the same time.
How long does it take?
  • A 3D mammogram will take 1-2 minutes longer than a standard 2D mammogram.
Will my insurance cover the test?
  • Currently, Medicare and Medicaid cover the cost of 3D mammography. For other insurances, there is a small fee to have this included as part of your mammogram screening.
Where Can I Have a 3D Mammogram?
  • Since April, 2016, 3D mammography has been available at The Breast Care Center in Portsmouth, Virginia.

Why Screen?

Screening mammography saves lives.
  • Women who undergo annual screening mammography decrease their chances of dying from breast cancer by 30%.
  • Despite the recent debate over guidelines for screening mammograms, there is universal agreement in the medical community that mammography saves lives.

Early detection is the key to cure.

  • Mammography can detect cancer at early stages before a woman can feel a lump.
  • When breast cancer is detected early, before it has a chance to spread, the 5-year survival rate is 98%.

If you are a woman and you are getting older, you can develop breast cancer!
  • Approximately 20% of breast cancers are detected in women under the age of 50.
  • The risk of breast cancer increases with age.
  • 75% of women diagnosed with breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease.
  • We advise all women, beginning at age 40, to have screening mammograms every year for as long as they do not have serious health problems. Age alone should not be the reason you stop.

Mammograms are safe and fast.
  • The health benefits of getting a yearly screening mammogram that may help diagnose early breast cancer far outweigh any risk of radiation associated with the test.
  • Mammograms take about 20 minutes.

Set an example.
  • Encourage your mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends to get annual screening mammograms by having yours.

Mammogram Callback

Has this ever happened to you? You just had you annual screening mammogram. Then comes the dreaded phone call – you need to return to the breast center for additional testing! Panic immediately sets in. But, what does this really mean?

There are many reasons a radiologist may call you back from your screening study. Although there is no way to completely eliminate the anxiety this situation can produce, it may help to know that the odds are in your favor.

  • Approximately 1 in 10 screening mammograms will be called back.
  • 9 out of 10 callbacks will be given the “all-clear” with additional mammographic imaging and, in some cases, ultrasound.
  • If a callback results in a biopsy recommendation, know that 4 out 5 biopsies are negative!

Breast Density

What Every Woman Should Know
What is “dense” breast tissue?
The breast tissue is made up of fat and glandular tissue. Glandular tissue (i.e. dense breast tissue) appears white on a mammogram, while fatty tissue appears dark. The more glandular tissue a woman has, the whiter the mammogram. Breast cancer – which also looks white - can sometimes be hidden in denser breast tissue, making it more difficult to detect.
How do I know if I have “dense” breast tissue?
A radiologist will determine if a woman has dense breast tissue by examining her mammogram. The state of Virginia now requires information about tissue density to be included in mammogram letters sent to patients (Virginia Breast Density Bill – July 2012).
Does “dense” breast tissue increase my breast cancer risk?
Multiple studies have shown that dense breast tissue is a risk factor for breast cancer. It is also well known that having dense breast tissue makes finding cancer more difficult. However, recent studies have shown that having dense breast tissue does NOT increase your risk of dying from the disease.
I have “dense” breast tissue. NOW WHAT?
Be extra diligent about your health. We recommend:

  • Yearly mammograms starting at age 40.
  • As long as you are in good health, continue yearly screening mammograms. There is no age limit.
  • Be familiar with how your breasts normally feel and look. If you detect any changes, call your doctor right away.

If you are concerned that you may have an increased risk of developing breast cancer due to your family history, then contact your doctor about a high risk assessment. Other screening tests, such as screening ultrasound, are recommended for high risk women in addition to having their yearly mammogram.
Why wait? Schedule your yearly screening mammogram today!